Dolphins RB faces substantial fine

Updated: May 15, 2004, 9:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams faces a $650,000 fine following his second violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy, the Palm Beach Post reported Friday.

According to the report, Williams failed a drug test on Dec. 10, 2003. This follows a prior failed test soon after he arrived in Miami after being traded from the New Orleans Saints in May 2002.

When reached by the paper, Williams claimed his status with the league was clear.

"I'm in good standing with the NFL and the Dolphins," Williams told the Post.

Sources, however, told the Post that Williams appealed the fine for this latest apparent transgression at the NFL headquarters in New York City on April 16. According to the Miami Herald, an arbitrator will decide the appeal.

Williams denied that his visit to NFL headquarters was related to a drug policy violation.

"There is no story here," he told the Post. "I was in New York a few weeks ago and I did visit the league headquarters. I guess that's how rumors get started. But I was just visiting friends in the city and I just decided to go in. I will be at training camp on Tuesday."

When reached by the Herald on Friday, Williams said: "I don't want to comment on this -- I'll deal with this on Tuesday." Williams will attend the Dolphins' second quarterback school of the offseason Tuesday through Thursday at the team's practice facility in Davie, Fla. He is allowed to participate in team activities even if he is fined.

According to the report, the Post saw NFL documents that showed Williams' attorney, Gary Ostrow, had filed arguments with the league over the fairness of its drug testing policy. Williams reportedly scored a 15 on the league's testing scale -- the lowest score that would register as a positive test result and one that, according to the report, is consistent with occasional marijuana use. A second sample taken later on Dec. 10 scored a 14 -- a level that would not have warranted league action without an initial positive result, according to the Post.

"Ricky is pretty confident he's going to beat this thing," one source told the Post. "When he took the test, for example, he was dehydrated after exercising. Dehydration sometimes causes people who would be negative to test positive."

Dr. Gary Wadler, a New York University professor and doping expert, told the Post that he has never heard of dehydration being successfully used as a drug defense.

"Clearly, athletes will search every method they can, including analyzing each rule very precisely, the handling of the sample and the validity of the laboratory," Wadler said. "But marijuana is not a substance that occurs normally in the body and the only argument you can really make is passive inhalation. But for a cutoff above that level? You smoked. And you inhaled."

The Post reports that the NFL is expected to make a decision on Williams' appeal at the end of May. An NFL spokesman declined to comment on Williams to the Herald.

Williams also denied to the paper that he is in a league intervention program stemming from a first positive test, but that stance is contradicted by one of the paper's sources.

"He was just weeks away from getting off the intervention program," one of the sources said. "Officially, he would have been off intervention on Super Bowl Sunday. He has tested negative more than 100 times before. But then, this thing happened. He now gets back into intervention for another two years."

If he gets a favorable ruling, Williams would be out of the NFL drug-testing program because he would be considered clean for two years.

A player who tests positive once for any drug that is banned by the NFL is admitted into the treatment program for two years and is subject to as many as 10 tests a month. If a player is clean during that time, he is removed from the program.

A player who tests positive twice is fined the value equal to his pay for four games. A player who tests positive a third time is given at least a four-game suspension. A player who tests positive a fourth time is suspended for at least a season.

The NFL announces only suspensions and league spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment to The Associated Press about Williams.

"We do not comment on test results in our program," Aiello said Saturday.

Ostrow told the AP that Williams was eager to "set the record straight."

"The way they're painting it now is very unfair. The picture that's being presented by the media is slanted, it's one dimensional," he said Saturday.

He would not comment on specifics of the allegations, citing confidentiality agreements.

"We can't comment on any player because of the confidential nature of the program unless the league announces a suspension," Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene told the AP.

Williams' agent Leigh Steinberg did not return calls for comment.

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