Athletes who play in the National Football League (NFL) often seek every available opportunity to gain a competitive edge on their opponents. That being said, with so much pressure placed on winning, performance-enhanced drugs (PED) such as diuretics and steroids present tempting shortcuts to elevate performance. Prescription drugs such as painkillers also help athletes increase their endurance through injuries, and many athletes escape from the stress of playing on a national platform with recreational use of substances such as alcohol and marijuana.
The NFL has unfortunately been forced to deal with substance abuse since its inception. In fact, since the start of the century, there have been 945 substance-related game suspensions, resulting in $68,203,788 being issued out in fines.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that NFL players, like Seattle’s Richard Sherman, can succumb to problems with substance abuse and dependency. Although Sherman won a rare case against the NFL, it still sparked official’s interest in the subject matter. Players need to consistently perform at an elite level, as well as function both on and off the field. In their roles as almost superhero-like public figures, can certainly contribute to a convergence of pressure. It all can lead to them seeking the “help” they need from a number of different substances.
Unfortunately, as popular role models, these scenarios may perpetuate an image to impressionable young fans that substance abuse is normal, or even advantageous. As many players have recounted in their struggles with drug use and abuse, it’s anything but a glorious lifestyle.
What is the NFL doing to fix this problem?
The NFL and NFLPA have since passed a new drug policy. Listed below are the highlights of the policy:
- Alcohol and Other Substance of Abuse
The NFL substance abuse policy is designed to protect player’s health by defining substance abuse, and providing an intervention program for any player in need.
This policy also prohibits players from the use, possession, or distribution of any illegal drugs, as well as the abuse of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and alcohol. By enforcing this policy, pharmacy technicians will have to stay up to date on laws and regulations in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. This allows pharmacists to better serve professional athletes, while also allowing their body to heal properly without the reliance on drugs.
If players continue to struggle with substance abuse, they will then go through the three stages of an intervention program. Each stage is made up of different levels of treatment, evaluation, testing, and discipline. Players are entered into the intervention program if they test positive for substance abuse, exhibit odd behavior, or through self-referral. To help make players feel supported throughout their recovery process, they must remain in the program for a minimum of two years and in some cases, throughout their entire NFL career.
- Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances
Performance enhancing drugs to some athletes are like treats to the body. In other words, in order to fulfill the high expectations placed on them by coaches, fans, and other officials, they rely on these drugs to keep their bodies going and the competition high. Nevertheless, under federal law, steroids are classified as Scheduled III in the U.S. meaning that the hormone enhancement is banned by major, amateur, and professional sports.
The use of these substances can also lead to serious health problems later on down the road. Steroid use, for example, has been linked to a number of psychological, orthopedic, and reproductive problems. It’s also been linked to other serious problems, including heart disease, liver cancer, strokes, and infertility.
In order to protect players and maintain the integrity of the game we all love so much, the NFL prohibits the use of anabolic steroids (including testosterone), stimulants, human or animal growth hormones or similar substances. This policy extends to coaches, trainers, physicians and all other club personnel, ensuring that these individuals do not condone, encourage, or even supply these substances to players.
As a part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL, along with the NFL Player Association, decided to implement year-round random testing for human growth hormone. Once this policy was adopted by the NFL Players Association, the NFL became the first major American sports league to implement blood testing for human hormone growth.
For NFL players to truly overcome dependence or substance abuse, they should seek the professional help found at an addiction treatment facility. In treatment, they’ll be able to get to the root causes behind their addiction and effectively address them so they can deal with the temptation in the future and get their professional careers back on track.