After weeks of threats between the NFL and the four NFL players named in the Al Jazeera documentary The Dark Side (Green Bay Packers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison, and free agent Mike Neal), all of the players have agreed to interview with the NFL. Peppers and Matthews will interview with the league on August 24th at the Packers practice facility, Harrison will meet with the League on August 30th at the Steelers’ facility, and Neal – who originally planned on holding out – changed his mind and will now meet with League at an unknown time/place.
Ultimately the players decided that playing chicken with Roger Goodell and/or pursuing legal action was not in their best interest. Digging deeper, it is easy to see why: The league-friendly drafting of potentially applicable NFL policies allowed the League to act the way it did (is this starting to sound like a broken record yet?). While it is true that the NFL’s PED policy does not contain language requiring players to cooperate with investigations, other applicable policies do. For example, the NFL personal conduct policy, which applies to conduct related to the “possession, use or distribution of steroids or other performance enhancing substances”, requires that players cooperate with league investigations or be subject to discipline:
It is also possible that Goodell could flex his recently inflated Article 46 “conduct detrimental” powers – the expansion of which we detailed here and here – to justify forcing the players to interview.
“HGH-Gate” is far from over. One big question remains: What will happen if Players refuse to answer some of the NFL’s questions? From what we can gleam from Harrison’s letter to League, while he agreed to meet with the League, he only agreed to answer “questions about the only remarks about him in the Al-Jazeera report.” Here is everything related to Harrison in the documentary:
What if the League flatly asks if he has ever taken PEDs and Harrison refuses to answer? With Harrison defining such a narrow scope and the NFL being the NFL, there is a lot of potential for this to go sideways. If the league isn’t satisfied with what questions Harrison (or the others) will answer, will they suspend the players?
Wrapping up Rio
We all knew that Rio was polluted with potential legal issues, but no one could have predicted the wild last two weeks. In addition to swim-gate (read the latest on that here), the Court of Arbitration for Sport heard a record number of cases (28) in Rio. And while the Games are now over, Rio’s problems may not be. Due to budget deficiencies, the Paralympic Games are facing major budget cuts, which could prohibit up to 10 countries from sending their athletes to the games.
While every Paralympic athlete is inspirational, U.S. triathlete Melissa Stockwell’s story and demeanor are particularly compelling. Stockwell is the first American female soldier to lose a limb in combat. In 2004, while patrolling in Baghdad, a roadside bomb struck the vehicle she was riding in, forcing her to lose a leg. Here is how she described her mindset from that point forward:
I got to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to start that process of moving forward. I saw immediately that I was one of the lucky ones. I had three good limbs, my mind, my eyesight and I was alive. It was then I made a promise to live my life for those that didn’t make it back and who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I was a lucky girl. And a proud American.
Stockwell became the first Iraqi War veteran to compete in the Paralympics games, swimming 400 freestyle and the 100 butterfly in Beijing. Stockwell turned her focus to triathlon and will represent the U.S. in Rio.