How is the NFL’s drug policy different from other sports leagues?

Here’s how the drug policies for different professional sports leagues vary.

NFL
TESTING

Draft-eligible players are urine-tested for marijuana and other banned substances during the scouting combines.
Players who already are under contract, and not in the Intervention Program, are tested once during a period that begins April 20 and ends August 9.

Players who are in Stages One, Two or Three of the Intervention Program — meaning they have had at least one positive test result, exhibited behavior consistent with substance abuse or have voluntarily entered the program — are tested as often as the NFL’s Medical Director deems necessary.

PENALTIES

Stage One

If a player tests positive for any substance of abuse while in Stage One, or misses or refuses a test, he is fined three weeks’ pay and advances to Stage Two.

Stage Two

The first positive marijuana test result in Stage Two carries a less-severe penalty (two-game fine) than a positive test for other banned substances (four-game fine). The next positive marijuana test in Stage Two results in a four-game suspension (the same as a positive result for other banned substances) and entry into Stage Three.

Stage Three

If a player’s first positive test result after being advanced to Stage Three is for marijuana, he is suspended without pay for 10 regular season and/or postseason games (including the Pro Bowl). For any subsequent violation (a positive test; failure to comply with treatment plan; failure to cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation or other requirements) results in banishment without pay for a minimum of one calendar year.

NBA
TESTING

During the season, players are subject to four random urine tests for drugs of abuse. They are tested twice more during the offseason.

PENALTIES

Discipline is more punitive for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs and drugs of abuse than for marijuana violations. Non-marijuana violations can result in lengthy suspension or dismissal from the league.

If a player tests positive for marijuana or is convicted or pleads guilty to possession of marijuana, he must enter the league’s Marijuana Program and submit to treatment, counseling and aftercare testing.

A second positive test result for marijuana results in a $25,000 fine, not publicly announced.

A third positive test result for marijuana triggers a five-game suspension. This is the first time the public becomes aware that the player has tested positive for marijuana.

Each subsequent positive test result for marijuana triggers a suspension that is five games longer than the previous suspension.

MLB
TESTING

Players are subject to random testing, in some cases several times each season, for performance enhancing substances, stimulants and Didehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

They are not, however, tested for drugs of abuse, including marijuana, unless they are suspected of using a drug of abuse. In those cases, players are referred to the MLB treatment board, which then determines testing and treatment parameters.

PENALTIES

In part because players are less-frequently tested for drugs of abuse, no MLB player has been suspended for using a drug of abuse since Josh Hamilton in 2004.

That suspension, however, was not for a positive marijuana test. Penalties for positive marijuana, hashish and synthetic THC tests are less severe than for other drugs of abuse.

Players who test positive for marijuana, hashish or synthetic THC are not suspended. Instead, they incur escalating fine amounts up to $35,000.

Minor league players, however, face much tougher discipline for positive marijuana, hashish or synthetic THC tests.

As a minor leaguer in 2007, current Rangers pitcher Jeremy Jeffress was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a drug of abuse, reportedly marijuana. When he tested positive for a third time in 2009, he was suspended for 100 minor league games.

NHL
TESTING

Although the league does not condone use of marijuana, it is generally not part of its testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

Those tests for performance-enhancing drugs occur once during training camp, then once during the season players are subject to random, no-notice testing. During the off-season, a league-wide maximum of 60 players can be randomly selected for performance-enhancing drug tests.

One-third of the performance-enhancing drug test specimens are randomly selected to be screened for stimulants, narcotics and cannabinoids (including marijuana and hashish).

PENALTIES

Players who are randomly tested for drugs of abuse (including marijuana) are not identified, nor are they disciplined if they test positive. Those results are annually monitored through the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health program to help determine future league-wide testing.

But if a player’s substance-abuse test result is flagged as dangerously high, he is subject to mandatory assessment and possible treatment, though he is not disciplined.

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