Williamses, NFL state cases in hearing

Updated: May 15, 2009, 3:50 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Attorneys for the NFL players' union and for two Minnesota Vikings stars facing suspension say league officials knew a supplement contained a banned diuretic back in 2006 and did not specifically notify players or the Food and Drug Administration.

In addition, the attorneys said, new evidence shows a hot line for players to get information on such issues gave out false information about the supplement, and told players it was not banned.

Attorneys for the NFL disputed that Thursday in U.S. District Court, saying operators warned players against taking any supplements -- and that players are ultimately responsible for what they put into their own bodies.

"There is no question here, they were warned," said Daniel Nash, an attorney for the National Football League.

Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, along with three New Orleans Saints players, tested positive for the diuretic bumetanide last year and were each given four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's anti-doping policy.

Bumetanide has been found in the supplement StarCaps, though it is not on the label. It is banned because it can be used as a masking agent for steroids. The Williamses, who are not related, had no trace of steroids in their systems, according to court documents.

The Williames sued the NFL for monetary damages. The National Football League Players Association also sued to overturn the suspensions of the Williamses and of Saints players Charles Grant, Will Smith, and Deuce McAllister.

The NFL is defending both lawsuits, saying that under a collective bargaining agreement it's not required to list every banned substance individually. Rather, Nash argued, the NFL and the union already agree to warn players against supplements in general, because their exact ingredients may be unknown.

The plaintiffs argued doctors and officials involved with the league's anti-doping policy had a duty to tell players about StarCaps. They also suggested officials had a duty to tell the FDA, and that the players' safety was at risk.

"This is a situation in which the NFL simply failed to live up to its obligations," Peter Ginsberg, an attorney for the Williames, said after Thursday's hearing.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson will decide whether the cases will go forward.

Much of Thursday's hearing centered on evidence that attorneys say has been uncovered as the cases have progressed, including testimony of doctors and officials involved in the anti-doping program.

Jeff Kessler, attorney for the NFL players union, said: "This has very serious implications for all players in the league."

Pat Williams declined comment after the hearing.

"It's in the judicial system now and we're just going to wait," Kevin Williams said. "We believe in the system."

Magnuson ruled late last year that the suspended players could finish out last season. If the suspensions are upheld, they would be enforced this season.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press