COMMISSIONER GOODELL announced today that the suspensions of New Orleans Saints players CHARLES GRANT and WILL SMITH for their 2008 violations of the NFL's Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances will not be enforced at the present time.
"This situation presents several unique and narrow aspects that I believe call for us to put the good of the game ahead of questions of discipline," Commissioner Goodell said. "Considerations of fairness, uniform application of our policies, and competitive integrity all support deferring the suspensions at this time. I am not prepared to treat players differently when the same conduct is involved."
Last Friday, a federal appeals court in Minnesota unanimously ruled in favor of the NFL in the so-called "Star Caps" case, rejecting all of the challenges brought by the NFL Players Association, including unfounded claims of bias and failure to share information with players about diuretics. The Court of Appeals fully upheld the earlier rulings of a federal district court in favor of the league.
The ruling upheld the suspensions of the Saints players. However, the federal court also allowed KEVIN WILLIAMS and PAT WILLIAMS of the Minnesota Vikings to pursue separate claims under Minnesota state law, which prevent suspending them at this time. Commissioner Goodell said the NFL will vigorously contest those state law claims and enforce appropriate discipline on a consistent and uniform basis.
Commissioner Goodell added, "Our primary goal is to maintain the effectiveness and integrity of our program, which has repeatedly been recognized as among the finest in all of sports. An important part of that program has been a tradition of fairness for players and clubs, with all players knowing they are held to a common standard. Because the Minnesota and New Orleans players committed the same violation and had their appeals resolved at the same time, I believe the appropriate step is to defer the suspensions while we pursue both our legal options and continue discussions with the NFLPA.
"Now that the courts have rejected the NFLPA's improper challenge to our collectively bargained program, we hope the union will join us in ensuring that these principles of fairness and uniformity are preserved. The union's unfortunate refusal to do so thus far has created needless uncertainty for our program. This is an important issue not only for the NFL, but for all sports and everyone who cares about the integrity of sports competition. This is why the other professional leagues and the USADA supported us in this case. "
It;s starting to look as though Smith and Grant will not get suspended this year. Good news?