Players take responsibility for supplements

Pat Williams and Kevin Williams didn't comment on a Fox report that they tested positive for a banned substance, but teammates and coaches said the responsibility to stay away from an extensive list of banned items lies with them. Among those talking about the list was Ray Edwards, who was suspended last year.

Ray Edwards has been in a similar position to the one defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams face right now, if a Fox Sports report about the two defensive tackles is accurate and they face four-game suspensions for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

According to the report, Kevin and Pat Williams tested positive for a water pill, bumetanide, which helps people lose weight but is also considered a "masking agent" for other drugs.

Besides many more steroid-related substances on the NFL's list of banned items, the league lists 20 masking agents that are banned, and bumetanide, which was cited as the agent in the Fox report, is one of them.

"It's a lot of things on the list, but this is our job," said Edwards, who was suspended four games last year for violating the policy. "We just have to make sure we protect ourselves. That's about it. That's all I'm saying. I had the situation last year. You've just got to protect yourself. You don't know what's out there and what's not out there. You've just got to protect yourself."

Safety Darren Sharper also said it is the players' responsibility to be familiar with the list of banned substances.

"That's up to us. That's our job. You have to look at the list and see what's on it. Mistakes can't happen," he said.

While the Williamses are reportedly appealing their four-game suspensions, according to the Fox report, Edwards decided not to do that last year.

"I didn't even appeal because I knew there was no chance of me winning, so I didn't appeal at all. I got my four games and was planning that (I'd have) my chance to come back out at the end of the year if we made the playoffs. That's what my situation was," Edwards said.

"I considered it, but once I got the information and got everything collected … there was no chance of me winning so I just took my four games without having to try to wait a game and then play another game where there wouldn't be the four games left in the season for me to just sit out and hopefully we were going to make the playoffs. I would just sit out and hopefully we make the playoffs."

When a player appeals a positive drug test, a second sample, taken on the same day of the original sample, is tested in front of a player representative. But the appeals could be difficult to win because appealing a positive test for banned substances goes in front of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. While the NFL Players Association has been successful in appealing club-related suspensions recently in front a neutral arbitrator, drug-related appeals go in front of the commissioner.

"Unfortunately, we do not have neutral arbitration for league discipline, and our success in challenging discipline for on-field conduct or for violations of the league's personal conduct policy has been minimal," the NFLPA wrote on its web site when talking about suspensions for personal conduct. "League discipline is appealed to the NFL Commissioner or his appointee, and it is not likely that the league is going to disagree with itself when appeals are heard. It is clear from our ongoing team meetings that players see league discipline as becoming more and more excessive, and that the best way to address the problem is to insist that the next CBA require neutral arbitration for league discipline as well."

That would be too late in the Williamses' case, but, besides the web site listing the banned substances, the league also provides a number for players to call if they have questions about a supplement they are considering taking, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello.

"There is an NFL/NFLPA Supplement Hotline (phone) and a web site for players about supplements, and players also can contact the Independent Administrator confidentially with any questions," Aiello said in an e-mail to Viking Update.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said the team's athletic trainers and medical staff aren't supposed to be an avenue for the players to receive advice on supplements.

"They don't get involved with any of that stuff. They're not allowed for anyone to bring anything to them or ask, ‘What about this? Can I take this supplement?' We don't provide, they can't give any advice," Childress said.

Some players take league-approved substances, but ultimately the responsibility for what each player takes is placed on himself to avoid substances on the list of banned items.

"They get a list of what's in and what's out. It's up to them, once again, whether they're reading labels," Childress said. "Strict liability is strict liability."

For Sharper, the Williamses reportedly testing positive for a diet pill – and not steroids itself – makes a big difference.

"I think they said diuretics was basically to try to lose weight. You know, big deal, to me. I think the fans think the same thing," Sharper said. "I can't speak for all of them, but when you talk about steroids … it makes the league look bad, but I don't think this is a big deal."

Both Williamses were at practice on Monday, and Childress said he expects them to play on Sunday.

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