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NFL Ignored Drug Violations

August 31, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NFL said Monday that it deferred substance abuse suspensions for 16 players as part of 1993 negotiations with its players union on a new and stronger drug policy.

The league said the 16 would have been suspended had it not been for the negotiations. Instead, they were put into a mandatory counseling and treatment program when negotiations were completed in 1995. League spokesman Greg Aiello said six were eventually suspended for later violations.

In its statement, the league said that it agreed to withhold the suspensions in order to get the union to agree to a stronger policy. That policy was included in the 1995 agreement.

``While the new policy was being negotiated, there were 16 players whose discipline under the old program was deferred pending completion of the negotiations,″ the league said.

``In 1995, all 16 players were slotted into the new program, tested regularly, treated by professional counselors and physicians and subject to suspension for any further violations ... The 1995 program is the most comprehensive in professional sports,″

The deferrals were first disclosed by The New York Times, which reviewed 40 tapes from a NFL Players Association meeting in Hawaii in 1995. They were made by a film company hired by the union in an effort to improve its relationships with its players, the Times said.

However, the film company sued the union in a dispute over payment, and the NFLPA never took control of the tapes.

The videotapes reportedly show Doug Allen, the union’s assistant executive director, discussing differences between the new drug policy and the old one. Allen told the players that a number had failed drug tests and faced suspensions, but because of a private agreement with the NFL, the players would not be suspended.

Other discussions on the tapes include an offer by a union official to teach players ways to circumvent the salary cap; debates on substance abuse; and assertions that some union members believed racism was behind the league’s push to ban players from wearing bandannas.

League sources told the AP that the two men behind the ban on bandannas are both black _ Gene Washington, the league’s disciplinarian, and Minnesota coach Dennis Green.

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