The NFL has a problem with the way it tests for banned substances at the combine every year, but it’s hardly the only sport that needs an overhaul.
Former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster spoke to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently after he tested positive for a diluted sample at the combine. He said he was feeling ill and needed to drink water and Gatorade to keep his energy up.
“I just hope the coaches understand, and that’s all I can hope and pray for.”
According to the NFL combine protocol, a diluted sample is treated like a positive test. Jabrill Peppers also test positive for a diluted sample. Both players were selected at the bottom of the first round.
The NFL regulations are different during the regular season compared to the tests administered during the combine. Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas spoke on the situation recently, noting the system is flawed (more on that here).
After doing a bit of investigating, we quickly discovered the NFL isn’t the only league with inconsistencies in regards to urine testing.
I recently spoke to a former major league player and asked him about the testing he went through. He mentioned when he would give samples, if the sample was “too diluted,” the tech would wait for him to provide another sample. This is before the actual sample is given to the powers that be.
These are more of a pre-test, but Thomas told me it was no different in the NFL. But it’s “apparently” different at the combine. That’s what Thomas’ ultimate concern with the system was. It should be consistent across the board.
Following the diluted sample mishap, Reuben Foster has been on many media platforms talking about what had happened. He’s not pleading for forgiveness necessarily but asking for an understanding of the scenario. And now we have a better view of what these young athletes go through to try and impress those watching.
“I couldn’t eat much, but I had to drink water and Gatorade,” Foster said. “Then a few coaches said something about me being too light. And I’m a coach-pleaser. I don’t care what everybody thinks, but I care what coaches think. So I drank and ate as much as I could without throwing up. Then I went in there, drinking and drinking water, trying to flush out my system from whatever was making me sick and trying to keep my weight up and took the test.”
During my interview with the baseball player, he told me there are many ways the system can be altered. He said the main one typically has to do with the techs and the way the test is given. Sometimes, the techs are nervous or intimidated by an athlete which changes the format of the test itself.
“Unless you’re someone who has violated before, the system is pretty relaxed,” he explained. “Some guys will do that on purpose. If they are a well-known name, they will get the tech talking and sidetracked so they don’t pay attention to a diluted sample. It then gives the player a week or two to ‘get clean’ if he is dirty because that sample will get tested then he will need to retest.”
The source also explained his concerns in regards to having it be consistent across the board. Sometimes a tech would stand with him, sometimes the door to the stall could be closed, other times it could be open. A minor leaguer who also played in the World Baseball Classic explained to me he has always had someone standing there with him.
It seems the National Football League is not the only sport that has inconsistent testing.
It’s sad that something as small as a flawed system could play a major part in any athlete’s success. It’s something that needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed quickly.