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Updated: Digging Deeper Into Josh Gordon's Suspension & NFL Drug Testing

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports


I would like to apologize for my oversight in regards to one of the main premises in my article below. At the time I wrote this, I believed I had accurate information based on the NFLPA site and the document that multiple other writers and sites had posted that led me to believe the claims I presented in my piece.

Those of you that follow me or have read my articles know that I don't have an agenda. I hope readers will understand that this was an honest oversight and that I'm attempting to be accountable for this. That being said, there is still plenty of good information presented here, but to say that codeine wasn't on the list of banned substances is not accurate.

- Mike

If you believe Josh Gordon's story about how and why he tested positive for Codeine (a banned NFL substance) then I'd invite you settle in for some enlightening reading.

I don't claim to know more than anyone else. In fact, I originally thought the NFL cut Gordon a break on account of an honest mistake. I originally thought Gordon's story and the reaction from the NFL to only hand him 2 games made reasonable sense. I wanted to believe Gordon. I wanted to give him the benefit of doubt. I wanted our most talented wide receiver to have cleaned up his act. But as I dug deeper, something didn't add up.

Let's start with the actual list of banned substances from the NFLPA website. I took at least 3 in-depth looks through this list and there's no reference of the opiate codeine, or 3-methylmorphine (a natural isomer of methylated morphine).

  • Why are both these missing from the list if that's what he claims he tested positive for?

I've been told that there are official banned substances and PED lists posted throughout every NFL locker rooms and facilities. I've been told that players and their medical counsel are often and clearly educated on these substances. Players who are entered into the NFL drug program are made even more aware of these substances.

This brings up the apparent distinction between how the NFL enforces positive PED tests vs. banned substance tests.

  • Why was Josh Gordon's suspension only 2 games?

Especially when he was already in stage 2 of the NFL drug program:

Gordon's two-game suspension and four-game fine for the codeine -- which he said was contained in cough syrup prescribed for strep throat -- means he was already in Stage Two of the NFL's substance abuse program.

For a player to be suspended, he must have violated the policy at least one other time. That means that Gordon -- who failed three marijuana tests in college and was dismissed from Baylor and Utah -- has tested positive at least five times since October, 2010.

According to my calculations, between 2012 and present day, there have been no less than 15 players suspended for 4 games for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, including Adderral. The league seems to treat PED infractions uniformly and with a strict 4 game penalty. I came across some very interesting precedence to help illustrate how the league punishes non PED infractions.

I highly recommend reading a recent article featured on Bleacher Report by Paul Thelen: How the League's Drug Policy is Broken.This article includes links to all 301 pages of the "new" CBA as well as great information and links about the current program in place and how it is less than perfect. In fact, there still isn't an agreement on how testing should be done and Thelen goes on to say how the NFL has created an environment where NFL players use HGH without fear of punishment.

According to a recent article written by ex-NFL player Ryan Riddle, "An Insider's Perspective on NFL Drug Tests", the only time a player is tested for street drugs is before training camp, unless he's already in the NFL drug program:

Each year before the start of training camp every player on the roster is tested for both performance enhancing drugs and street drugs. For guys not in the NFL drug program, this surprisingly is the only time the entire year that an NFL player is tested for illegal street drugs.

This means athletes in the NFL can partake freely in whatever illegal drugs they choose as long as they don’t show up on the banned substance list. This is why we never hear about guys getting suspended for illegal street drugs in the NFL.

However, if a player enters the NFL with a confirmed history of drug or alcohol issues, he is then implemented into the NFL’s anonymous substance abuse program. While in the program, that player can be tested at random at any given point throughout the year no matter where they are in the country.

  • So you fail a drug test for non-PED's; and you're already in the NFL drug program; you cite a drug that's not even on the banned substance list; but the new CBA dictates that you, your agent, the team and the NFL can't say why; do you think fans are dumb?

Let's look at some substance abuse type infractions, Joel Thorman over at SBN's Arrowhead Pride explains how ProFootballTalk's source came to believe Chiefs' Linebacker Tamba Hall tested positive for marijuana based on Commissioner Goodell's past handling of four separate athlete's suspensions - all allegedly for marijuana use:

"That source could simply be Roger Goodell's past history of player suspensions.

Earlier this year, Jaguars' Nate Collins was suspended one game without pay and fined an additional game check for possession of marijuana.

Saints' Lawrence Wilson was suspended one game without pay and fined an additional game check for possession of marijuana.

Seahawks' Leroy Hill was suspended for one game without pay and fined an additional game check for possession of marijuana.

Falcons' Jonathan Babineaux was suspended for one game without pay and fined an additional game check for possession of marijuana."

Then there's always Mikel Leshoure's double arrest for marijuana which resulted in almost an identical punishment to that of our very own Josh Gordon:

"The NFL announced Wednesday that it has suspended Leshoure for the first two games of the upcoming season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, following his two marijuana-related arrests this offseason.

Leshoure also will be docked two additional game checks, bringing his total salary forfeiture to $109,412 of his $465,000 base salary."

  • So if codeine isn't on the list; PED's are treated with 4 game suspensions; and there's lots of examples of players failing for marijuana and getting 2 game suspensions, what was it he really tested positive for?

If you haven't read through this already, I suggest you read one of Jim Kanicki's latest - The Josh Gordon File. He presents a very well thought out and straightforward take on how Josh Gordon is fabricating a big lie about his honest mistake and ingestion of codeine. Kanicki also goes on to suggest something I agree with, Gordon needs help:

This is deeper than the three failed drug tests at two colleges that we knew about and the insulting "narcotics prescription for strep throat" "confession." This is mid-stage self-destruction and someone in his posse should be planning an intervention.

It's become increasingly difficult for me to believe Josh Gordon's story, even though I really want to. I think he knew exactly what happened, and tried to cover it up. It should also be noted that around the time when he supposedly got sick and took the medication, he hired a new agent: Drew Rosenhaus.

I think Josh Gordon has the talent to be a top 5 WR in the NFL, he has the ability to dominate the entire league. But I know there's there been plenty of players with similar physical gifts who have squandered them at the hand of poor decisions.

I think Gordon's a good kid, who works very hard on the field and in the classroom (contrary to some reports out there) and is a guy that is a team player and wants to win when between the lines and "at work" in Berea. I think the problem is that he surrounds himself with people that influence him and help facilitate his poor decision making. Don't get me wrong, he is solely responsible for his actions and what he puts into his body, but if what I've heard is accurate, his "closest circle" may be to blame for much of the bad influence in his life.

Regardless of that conjecture, Gordon is being paid millions, he knows what's at stake, he knows he's on the hot seat, he knew he was already in the NFL drug program, he knew he was kicked out of Baylor and that he had already failed at least 4 tests for marijuana, he knew he almost missed a chance to play in the NFL because of this, but he wants us to believe that he somehow didn't pay attention to what he was putting into his body after all of this?


I agree with Zac Jackson and will even go a step further and suggested that Josh Gordon be required by the Browns to attend the rookie symposium this year. I also feel like Josh Gordon needs a role model. Davone Bess might be a veteran, but let's bring in Michael Irvin, or Randy Moss, or somebody that can teach Gordon how to manage his demons and get himself straightened out so he can be the productive, dominant NFL WR his talents suggest he can become.

I'd like to believe Gordon. I tried and I even defended him at first. But I was wrong and I just can't believe his story anymore. Something doesn't add up and nothing he suggested makes much sense. I think he has a serious problem and if he doesn't address it and grow up, he won't be in the league for much longer. The Browns have practically come out publicly and said "prove it, stay clean, and produce or we'll find somebody we can depend on". I certainly hopes the light bulb goes on for Gordon, because if it does, his light will undoubtedly blind the league. But if it doesn't Josh Gordon's talents will be wasted and he'll be considered a flash in the pan that went up in smoke.