NFL delays drug testing due to COVID-19

Sep 4, 2020

The NFL Players Association had announced to all players that the window for annual drug testing was moved to the period of August 7-17 due to the inability of the league to complete the collection process. According to the association, the drug testing procedures were pushed back due to increased COVID-19 screenings. Since the beginning of the NFL training camp, athletes have undergone daily testing for COVID-19.

Critics have voiced concern that this delay provided athletes who use illicit drugs with extra time for the substances to be eliminated from their bodies.

The new 2020 labour deal has removed suspensions for positive tests. However, if tested positive, players can still incur large fines for testing positive for prohibited substances. In addition, they also can be placed in an intervention program, which includes more frequent testing.

The new deal reduced the number of players being tested for THC, the main psychoactive constituent in cannabis, and had narrowed the window for THC testing from four months to the two weeks before opening of training camps. However, with the window for drug testing being shifted to August 7-17, it could mean that players who use cannabis for medicinal properties will need to wait longer before using cannabis. Interestingly, once the testing period is over, athletes will not undergo further testing, and could potentially use cannabis throughout the upcoming season.

Players who are not in the program are required to provide one clean sample during the annual preseason test, which allows recreational cannabis use in jurisdictions where it is legal.

According to former NFL player Kyle Turley, cannabis has many health benefits for the athletes. “What are we going to do here? Are we going to go into quarantine? Or are we going to live? And if you choose cannabis, I’m here to tell you that you’re going to live,” he said.