NFLDraftBible.com is coming under fire by the league after publishing a report (which got wider exposure when picked up by websites like ProFootballTalk.com) claiming that five first-round draft prospects tested positive for drugs at the Combine in February.
According to the report, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, cornerback Vontae Davis and wide receiver Percy Harvin all tested positive for marijuana at the Combine. In addition, the website reported that USC linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews tested positive for steroids. Sports Illustrated's website (SI.com) has also reported that Raji tested positive for marijuana at the Combine.
The response from the NFL has been immediate and rather damning. On the league's official website, it sighted an unnamed "league spokesman" (don't they knew who their own spokesman is?) saying, "The independent medical advisors who administer the tests have notified in writing those players – and only those players – who tested positive at the Combine. Unfortunately, rumors about draft-eligible players, including rumors about test results, begin to circulate every year at this time. Many of these rumors are circulated for self-serving reasons and they are terribly unfair to the players and their families."
On the USC official website, head coach Pete Carroll defended his players saying that the rumors are "absolutely false" and that neither Matthews nor Cushing have been notified of a positive test.
For the vast majority of football fans, NFLDraftBible.com wasn't a website that most were familiar with, but when the stories get validated by being repeated on sites like PFT – despite its disclaimers that "this is them reporting it, not us" brand of journalism – it has brought the issue to national attention and put all five of the players under a microscope.
If the allegations prove to be true, both the league and its unnamed in-house spokesman will have egg on their faces. If, however, the reports aren't proved to be accurate, the reputations of the players named will be still be sullied in the minds of many fans. They may not remember that nothing came of the stories, just that their names have been linked to positive drug tests – whether true or not.
Perhaps we are just perpetuating the story by forwarding the information, but with both the league and representatives for several of the players denying that results have been made known to the league or its teams, the website is being given a lot more attention than it had a few days ago. In the end, that may have been the goal, but it is just another sign that Internet is becoming a primary source of news as newspapers are dying off or struggling financially. Unfortunately, many of these websites don't have the same level of accountability that longstanding news sources have to maintain.