FOXBORO -- Posted outside the entrance to the Patriots training room is a sign that warns NFL players about supplements and medications. The small poster implores players to call an NFLPA hotline if they have any questions on whether a substance is OK to ingest or not. And the phone number is right there.
Monday, after news that Jermaine Cunningham was given a four-game suspension broke, I decided to dial the number on the bottom of the poster to see just how hard it is on NFL players to get the counsel they need.
June' Rogers, the Director of Drug Programs and Policies, answered on the second ring.
We didn't speak about any case in particular. Mostly, we discussed the prescription drug Adderall, an Attention Deficit Disorder medication that player after player cites for being the cause of testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
One of the first things Rogers noted was that no player tests positive for Adderall. What the player specifically took is not definable. In the case of Adderall use, a player would test positive for amphetamines.
What's the benefit of Adderall? Rogers said it enhances focus. And it gives a player a little zip (my word, not hers) after he takes it. It's an upper.
Speaking to another source in the medical field, I was told Adderall has limited benefits for NFL players aside from meeting room focus and staying awake (it's also used to combat narcolepsy).
If NFL players were playing multiple games in a week and crossing time zones like professional baseball players do, taking Adderall would make sense since it battles fatigue. But that isn't generally the case.
It's worth noting that the NFL does not cite the performance enhancing substance found in a player's system when a positive result and suspension come down. As a result, blaming Adderall -- a drug that treats a very common condition in our society -- means a player isn't stigmatized as he would be if he tested positive for testosterone, something which physically imbalances the playing field as opposed to giving a mental "edge." So players who cite Adderall as the reason they get suspended deal with the presumption that they probably are just using Adderall as an excuse instead of coming clean.
Either way, the NFL and NFLPA have taken significant steps to keep players and their agents informed on Adderall. Monday night, Rogers emailed me a Frequently Asked Questions handout on Adderall that the NFLPA has made available.
Have a look:
In what ways are players informed ofthe NFL's banned substances?
The Player Policies handbook, which is distributed annually to all players, includes complete copies of both the Performance Enhancing Substances Policy and the Substances of Abuse Policy. Both policies identify the substances that are prohibited and for which players are tested under the respective policies. Additionally, the prohibited performance enhancing substances list is posted on the NFLPAs website; it is also provided at team meetings and at the Combine. The NFLPAs Player Planner App also includes the prohibited list, allowing players to access the information from their smartphones andor tablet devices.
Has there been an attempt to educate players in alternative ways?
NFLPA Tweet of the week
Once a week players following @NFLPA receive a message regarding some aspect of our drug polices as well as information on products that may pose a risk to players health and safety.
Dont Take - Poster campaign
This poster was designed by the NFLPA to emphasize the consequences of taking ANY substance before discussing with a knowledgeable individual. These posters have been sent to all teams to be posted in locker rooms.
Talking Points Pilot
This grassroots approach is designed to ensure that the people who comprise a player's"circle of influence" are also educated on the drug policies. These documents are sent to agents, the NFLPA player reps for every team, and player engagement professionals to better equip them with knowledge regarding the professional, financial, health and legal risks associated with violating the drug policies.
The NFLPA is committed to educating EVERY player about the NFLNFLPA's drug policies. The union continues to create new opportunities for players to gain access to this information and educate them on the impact these policies can have on their lives and careers.
Is thereshould there be a focus on common prescription drugs like Adderall?
Our focus is on player health and safety. We are committed to ensuring that our players are fully aware of the potential health, professional and personal consequences associated with violating the NFLNFLPAs drug policies. This focus is and will be the same for all education efforts around the NFLs drug policies.
When didAdderall become a banned substance?
Amphetamines have been banned since 1995 under the NFLNFLPAs Policy and Programs on Substances of Abuse. Amphetamines such as Adderall have been prohibited under the NFLNFLPAs Policy on Anabolic Steroid and Related Substance Policy since 2006.
What is the process to obtain a T.U.E.?
Players need to submit a T.U.E. application to the Independent Administrator of the NFL Policy on Steroids and Related Substances PRIOR to the initiation of treatment. The Independent Administrator sends the T.U.E. to selected specialists who review the application and determine rather or not a TUE should be granted. This determination is based on the criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV ).
What are the accepted medical reasons for a player to obtain a T.U.E. forAdderall?
Adderall is approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADDADHD and narcolepsy. Treatment for those disorders provide the only bases upon which a player may be granted a T.U.E. for Adderall.
How often does a player need to update the paperworkre-apply for a T.U.E.?
T.U.E.s are reviewed annually. A full re-evaluation must be done every three years.
Has there been an increase in number of T.U.E. applications and grantsfor Adderall in recent years?
The NFLPA does not release information about T.U.E. applications or the statuses of these applications. However, increased diagnoses of ADDADHD in the general public have led to a corresponding increase in prescriptions for medications to treat these disorders.
Do players need to get the Adderall from the team or can it come from an outside doctor if there is a T.U.E.?
Prescriptions for Adderall can be written by any licensed physician; however, to be granted a T.U.E. under the NFLNFLPA policies, a formal evaluation must have been performed in the last 3 years by a psychiatrist and other physicians who specializes in the treatment of ADDADHD or a knowledgeable physician working with a psychologist in the ADDADHD area.
Director of Drug Programs and Policies
Player Affairs & Development