Attorney says no one told players StarCaps brand had bumetanide

Updated: November 19, 2008, 2:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The attorney for three New Orleans Saints players who tested positive for a banned diuretic said the administrator of the league's steroid policy did not reveal what he knew about a particular brand of supplements, exposing the league's players to "significant health risks."

David Cornwell, the attorney for running back Deuce McAllister and defensive linemen Will Smith and Charles Grant, also said none of the three players took steroids.

The three players, who tested positive for the banned diuretic bumetanide, appeared before an NFL hearing Tuesday to appeal what would be an automatic four-game suspension. Bumetanide is used in weight loss and is considered a masking agent for steroids.

The players are contending that they unwittingly took bumetanide when they were using StarCaps, a brand of weight-control supplement, saying the diuretic is not included on the label.

"The evidence in yesterday's appeal hearing confirmed that Will, Deuce, and Charles did not take steroids or any other prohibited substances," Cornwell said in a statement.

"Dr. John Lombardo, the Steroid Policy's Independent Administrator, testified that he learned in late 2006 that StarCaps contain the diuretic, bumetanide. Dr. Lombardo did not inform NFL players because he feared that a specific warning regarding StarCaps could be used as a defense to alleged violations of the Steroid Policy that involved weight reduction products other than StarCaps.

"Dr. Lombardo's failure to disclose what he knew about StarCaps may have exposed NFL players to the significant health risks associated with the unintentional ingestion of diuretics. If Dr. Lombardo had notified NFL players that StarCaps contained bumetanide, Will, Deuce and Charles would have never used the product to lose weight."

The league said the hearing was confidential.

"Public comments during the process are totally inappropriate," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We will continue to respect the program's required confidentiality until there is a resolution."

A league source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Lombardo did issue additional warnings the past two years about diuretics, however. Lombardo also specifically noted that the manufacturer was unregulated and known to make products that contained banned supplements, even though he did not specifically identify StarCaps, according to the source.

The NFL also is expected to hear the cases of Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, and Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jackson, all of whom tested positive for banned supplements under the league's steroid and performance-enhancement policy.

The cases of both Kevin and Pat Williams are scheduled to be heard Thursday.

If the players are denied their appeals, each will be suspended for four games. After their hearings, both sides will file briefs and a decision is expected within the next 10 to 14 days.

Last week, Jackson filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court in California against the manufacturer of StarCaps. He is seeking restitution for any lost salary and damages for "false advertising and unfair business practices."

Saints offensive guard Jamar Nesbit, who also tested positive for bumetanide, filed suit against StarCaps in October in federal court in New Jersey. He already served the four-game suspension, but wants to recoup $235,294 in lost salary from the maker of StarCaps.

Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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