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Josh Gordon loses appeal, one-year ban upheld

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is now officially subject to a one-year ban from the NFL. The decision has finally been issued for the long-awaited ruling on his ongoing appeal of what was originally reported to be a failed drug test back in December.

ESPN's Outside the Lines first broke the story of the impending suspension on the second day of the NFL Draft back in early May.

A later report near the end of July revealed that Gordon had tested positive for marijuana, but that the level of THC metabolites were 16 nanograms per milliliter (barely over 16.01 parts per billion) in one of his samples and above the league's absurdly low threshold of 15 ng/ml to consist of a "positive."

That threshold is significantly higher than any other major sport, including the very strict IOC, which stands at 175 ng/ml. Even air traffic controllers can have a level up to 50.

However, due to what effectively equates to a coin flip, the NFL's standard testing procedure is to randomly select one of the two samples provided by the player. The first one is tested and if it comes up positive, above the threshold, the second sample is tested merely for the presence of the same banned substance, without regards to the threshold. If the first sample comes up negative, below the threshold, the second sample isn't tested.

Gordon's first 16 ng/ml sample sparked a test of his second sample. The second one came up 13.6 ng/ml. Based on this procedure, it confirmed what the league considers a "positive." And the rest is history.

Earlier in July, Gordon was finally given a date for his appeal. The case wouldn't be heard until early August, between the time popularly referred to as "Hall of Fame Weekend," which includes the induction ceremony for the incoming Hall of Fame class and officially kickoffs the start of preseason. Needless to say, Roger Goodell was preoccupied during this time and Harold Henderson was tasked with arbitrating Gordon's case.

Testimony took many hours and well more than a single day, but when it had finally concluded on August 4, a decision was expected to come within one to three weeks. Last week marked the third.

The substance abuse policy dictates that rulings on appeals must be issued within a "reasonable time," which apparently in effect means absolutely nothing and, contrary to how the wording might sound, actually gives the league office enough leeway to take as long as they want.

Because of the leeway that allowed this sort of delay, Gordon is now potentially set to miss all of next year's offseason team activities as well as training camp and preseason.

UPDATE: Browns general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine released the following statements:


While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach. Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension.


We will continue to support Josh and we understand that there is accountability for one's actions. Our job and that of the team is to focus on what we can control. Our philosophy in building this team and the mentality we're establishing is that we're going to have to overcome challenges and situations throughout the course of a season. We'll continue to be relentless in our approach, in how we work and focus on our goal of returning winning football to Cleveland.