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Another PED ban doesn’t mean Seahawks are cheaters

By Danny O’Neil

Editor’s note: This column was written on the wrong side of 2 a.m. by a host who is currently on a beach in Southeast Asia suffering from severe jet lag and under the influence of copious amounts of fruit juice, everything from mango to young coconut.

A rash.

That was one description of a condition currently afflicting the Seahawks. A spate was another term for the run of players on this team who have violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances going back to 2011.

A glut was another term that someone used to evoke the feeling that this team that has made so much progress under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider is suffering from – well – an enhanced number of players getting popped by the NFL for taking a substance banned by the league because it’s deemed to aid performance.

Now, there are a lot of reasons to be troubled by the fact that defensive end Bruce Irvin is the fifth Seahawk on the active roster in three years to be suspended for a violation of that policy.

It means that players are failing to understand either what they are putting in their bodies or what they are allowed to put in their bodies. It also means they are not listening to their coaches and other support staff about what they are allowed to use.

What it doesn’t mean, though, is that the Seahawks are a team seeking to contend through chemistry as so many have implied. Anyone who thinks so is advised to consider this simple fact: You don’t have to beat a drug test to take a performance-enhancing substance in the NFL. At least not until the league and its players association reach an agreement on a test for human-growth hormone (HGH). Major League Baseball tests for it. So does the Olympics.

Defensive end Bruce Irvin is the fifth Seahawk since 2011 to be suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on PEDs. (AP)

But not the NFL. Oh, the league says it’s a banned substance. Former NFL safety Rodney Harrison even got suspended for it while with the Patriots a few years back, but only because the league found evidence of a shipment to him.

A player can’t test positive for HGH in the NFL because the league doesn’t have an agreement in place to test for it, the most commonly cited excuse being that a blood test is required. Consider that next time someone says Seattle’s list of suspensions is some sort of indication that this team is taking an illicit chemical route to fulfilling last year’s mantra of “Bigger, Faster, Stronger.”

That’s not to say Seattle’s players are blameless in this. No, there’s plenty of blame to go around, especially considering the prevalence of one specific drug among the Seahawks’ suspensions.

That drug is Adderall, which is the only type of amphetamine that can be legally prescribed. It can be used for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the NFL permits a player to use it only if he applies for – and receives – a therapeutic-use exemption.

There have been five Seahawks on the active roster suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The number climbs to six if you include Vai Taua, a practice-squad running back who was previously suspended.

Three of those Seahawk suspensions have been linked – either directly or indirectly – to Adderall.

Guard John Moffitt was suspended in 2011, which he attributed to Adderall. Moffitt said last year that while he once had a prescription for the drug, it was old, and in any case, he was not aware it was banned because he wasn’t in training camp the day it was discussed. Cornerback Brandon Browner reportedly tested positive for amphetamines last year, serving a four-game suspension. Now comes defensive end Bruce Irvin, whose statement released by the team clearly implied that Adderall was the drug he used by stating it was “prohibited without a medical exemption.”

Plenty of people have implied the drug is some sort of smokescreen, which is understandable. One of the biggest flaws of the league’s drug-testing policy is that it does not specify what banned substance a player tested positive for. Adderall has come to be characterized as a convenient excuse for a player who wants to avoid the stigma generally associated with a positive test. After all, it is legal with a prescription and it is an amphetamine as opposed to an anabolic steroid. Adderall doesn’t really fit our preconceptions about a performance-enhancing drug. It wouldn’t seem to help you get stronger or faster.

That doesn’t mean it’s OK or it’s harmless. Plenty of drugs available by prescription are performance-enhancers, and who’s to say the properties of speed are any less a performance-enhancer than a drug that helps you recover faster from a workout, building more muscle?

The Seahawks do have a problem they need to address: Players continue to test positive for banned substances, showing that either they don’t know the guidelines from the league, aren’t diligent about following them or are outright disregarding them.

To imply that this run of positive drug tests implies the Seahawks have a roster full of players seeking a chemical advantage who simply point to Adderall when they’re caught is inherently misguided, though, because it fails to consider that the league isn’t even testing for one of the most obvious chemical advantages a player could seek out.

If you really were a player seeking some sort of pharmaceutical edge, why wait to get suspended so you can blame it on Adderall when you can take a substance that the league isn’t currently testing for?