Tying up some loose ends on Josh Gordon’s suspension
It’s been a week now since the news broke that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was going to miss the first two games of the 2013 season due to a suspension.
Because the NFL Players Association does not allow for the release of the details over player suspensions, fans have been left to speculate as to why, exactly, Gordon is in trouble. To review, Gordon’s official explanation was the following:
“In February, I was diagnosed with strep throat for which a doctor prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine. Apparently, the medicine I took contained codeine, which is prohibited by the NFL policy. The policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but the NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case. Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, and Browns fans. I look forward to working hard in training camp and pre-season, and contributing immediately when I return in week three.”
There has been much written in the aftermath of the news about the suspension, with two of the better pieces coming here from friend-of-the-program Kanciki and this one from Mike Krupka at Dawgs by Nature. They both dovetail nicely with what we wrote earlier in the week, as Kanicki looks futher into Gordon’s background, while Krupka takes a look at the NFL’s drug policy.
After reading Krupka’s article we went back over the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse document (some title, huh?) to see if we had missed something and what we found helps makes Gordon’s suspension a little clearer.
In a footnote on Page 1 of the document, it states that:
The National Football League prohibits players from the illegal use, possession, or distribution of drugs, including but not limited to cocaine; marijuana; opiates and opioids; methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA); and phencyclidine (PCP). The abuse of prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, and alcohol is also prohibited. For example, the use of amphetamines and substances that induce similar effects, absent a verified and legitimate need for appropriate dosages of such substances to treat existing medical conditions, is prohibited.
So players are not allowed to use opiates (a family of drugs that includes codeine) illegally, but what about the fact that Gordon had a prescription for the cough syrup that contained the banned substance?
The NFL covers that in Appendix E of the document, with the key line being this one:
Abuse of over the counter drugs is defined as the use of an over the counter drug in disregard for the directions for use.
Codeine is, of course, one of the key ingredients in Purple drank, a concoction that gained popularity in Houston, where Gordon just happened to grow up. Using codeine to mix up a batch would certainly seem to fall under the category of “disregard for the directions for use.”
We wonder if that explains why Gordon received just a two-game suspension when it seems that, under the NFL’s policy, his suspension should have been four games. The NFL knows Gordon tested positive for codeine, but if he produced a valid prescription the league can’t prove he did anything other than ingest it accidentally as Gordon claims. If this had been Gordon’s first offense there would have been no suspension, but absent of any further evidence the league couldn’t do more than suspend him the two games.
We may be off the mark here and the true story will probably never be known, but there is enough background and other evidence that we can at least start filling in the picture a little clearer.
While we may never know what really happen with Gordon, there is one thing we are sure of: there is no reason for the Browns to release him as we’ve heard some fans have called for.
From a practical standpoint, Gordon has too much potential for the Browns to just give up on him. It may not be fair, but talented players get more chances than ones who were drafted in the seventh round. Gordon is not going to be the difference between the Browns making the playoffs or not this season, but they need all the help they can get and releasing Gordon doesn’t make the team better.
There is also the moral side of this (and, yes, we believe there is a place for morality in professional sports). Gordon has had problems in his life so far and he needs help. He is an employee of the Browns and they should feel an obligation to do what they can to try and help him out. If Gordon doesn’t want the help, or can’t get his life and career on the right track, that’s on him not the team. But that doesn’t mean the Browns shouldn’t try.
There’s no doubt that we haven’t heard the last of this whole story, but hopefully the suspension winds up being the start of the turnaround for Gordon, both in his personal and professional life.
(Photo by USA Today)