NFL Suspends Players for Adderall Use
Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the National Football League suspended four players for four games each under its performance-enhancing drug policies. All four have claimed to have used Adderall, the popular ADHD medication, and this led to the positive test. The players have been suspended without pay, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With an estimated 7 to 9 percent of the population diagnosed with ADHD, you might ask if it’s fair for the NFL to punish players for using such a commonly prescribed medication. As always, it isn't quite that simple.
First, the NFL simply publicly acknowledges a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance, but does not specify which banned substance was used. Players can then claim to have taken any of the substances that appear on the banned list--and the league cannot challenge those claims. That gives the player the opportunity to claim he took a common medication for a common condition (such as Adderall for ADHD) and in doing so, limit negative reaction from the public. According to an article in the Boston Globe, the NFL has banned two dozen players for violating its performance-enhancing substance policy, and many of the players have claimed Adderall triggered the positive test results.
Second, the NFL policy clearly states that Adderall is a banned substance. Under league rules, Adderall requires a prescription and a "therapeutic use exemption" issued by the NFL offices. Thus, the players who claim to have tested positive for Adderall acknowledge that the drug was taken without a prescription or a medical exception, which means they would have taken a controlled substance that is illegal.
Adderall is an amphetamine and a stimulant medication. For patients with ADHD, the drug can provide incredible benefits that can aid in concentration and focus. However, the drug – known as an "upper" in some circles – also increases blood flow and oxygen, which can help raise heart rate. When taken without a prescription, it can be dangerous.
New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was suspended in October for performance-enhancers and acknowledged taking Adderall without a prescription. Few other players admit to taking the drug without a prescription, including Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who claimed he drank from a teammate's water bottle, which supposedly contained dissolved Adderall, triggering the positive test.
The NFL does offer leniency on the issue, though, if legitimate medical need can be shown. New York Giants running back Andre Brown was suspended in the off-season for testing positive for Adderall, and the NFL later overturned the ruling upon appeal. Brown was able to produce a prescription for the drug to treat his ADHD.
Other players testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs and claiming the test was from Adderall include: Brandon Browner (Seattle Seahawks), Joe Hawley (Atlanta Falcons), Jermaine Cunningham (New England Patriots), Will Hill (New York Giants), Tyler Sash (New York Giants), Eric Wright (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Joe Haden (Cleveland Browns).
With the issue grabbing so many headlines, NFL fans must consider the circumstances by which these athletes are testing positive: Taking Adderall without a prescription is illegal, both in the NFL and for every-day citizens.
UPDATE: Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears has claimed that some players take Viagra during games as a means to get an edge. This, apparently, has not yet been classified as a performance-enhancing drug, though if Marshall is to be believed, Viagra could be the next drug to lead to some (likely embarrassing) suspensions.