Judge denies plea to delay suspensions

Updated: May 29, 2009, 3:28 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- A federal judge denied on Friday a request by the NFL Players Association to put the suspensions of five players on hold while the case over use of a banned substance is being appealed.

However, NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler said it doesn't necessary mean the players will miss any games at the start of the 2009 season because there could be action at the appellate court level before the season starts.

Further, he said, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson has sent some issues surrounding the suspensions of Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to the state courts.

Peter Ginsberg, attorney for both Vikings players, said Friday's ruling would not affect them because they have a stay on their suspensions from a state court. "I don't think it effects our clients at all," he said.

They will be back in front of a state judge next week, according to Ginsberg.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment about the ruling.

The Williamses, who are unrelated, and three New Orleans Saints players tested positive for a banned diuretic last year and were each given four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's doping policy.

Those suspensions were delayed while their cases were in federal court, but last week Magnuson threw out most claims by the Williamses, and all claims involving the Saints' Charles Grant and Will Smith, and Deuce McAllister, who was released by New Orleans after last season but hopes to play for another team during the upcoming season.

Both the NFL and the NFLPA have told the courts they plan to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The union wants the appeals court to reconsider Magnuson's dismissal of their lawsuit. Attorneys for the union had argued in court documents that the players would suffer "irreparable harm" if the NFL enforces the suspensions during the appeal process.

The league is appealing the judge's decision to send some of the Williamses claims to state court. Those claims involve Minnesota laws on when and how employers can require employees to submit to drug testing. They also prohibit Minnesota employers from disciplining employees for using a legal substance offsite during nonworking hours.

In his ruling last week, Magnuson said the NFL's policy is clear: Players are responsible for what they put in their bodies, and inadvertently ingesting a banned substance is not an excuse.

The NFLPA and the Williamses had argued in separate lawsuits that NFL officials knew a weight-loss supplement called StarCaps contained the banned diuretic bumetanide back in 2006, even though it wasn't listed on the label, and that the league should have notified players and federal regulators.

The NFL bans bumetanide because it can be used as a masking agent for steroids. The five players were not accused of taking steroids.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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