Vikings acknowledge contract clause
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings lineman Pat Williams echoed teammate Kevin Williams in telling a judge he didn't know an over-the-counter weight-loss supplement contained a substance banned by the NFL.
Pat Williams, a 13-year veteran, testified Wednesday he first took StarCaps when he was with the Buffalo Bills, where a trainer told him it was a legal supplement. Williams also said he checked out StarCaps online and "everything looked legal."
The NFL is trying to suspend the Williamses for four games each for testing positive in 2008 for the banned substance bumetanide, a diuretic that can mask steroids. Neither player is accused of taking steroids.
Both the Williamses are suing the NFL, alleging it violated state labor laws in applying its anti-doping policy.
Wearing his right arm in a sling following elbow surgery, the 37-year-old Pat Williams testified he has high-blood pressure and gout, a painful joint inflammation. He said some of his medications are diuretics, which promote fluid loss, and that he took StarCaps for his gout.
Before the 2008 season, Pat Williams said he was "stressing out" over his mother's sickness and had stopped training. His ankles and knees were swollen, he said.
"It was real bad," said Pat Williams, who arrived overweight at training camp. But unlike Kevin Williams, who testified that one of the reasons he took StarCaps before a training-camp weigh-in was to make his weight target and earn a $400,000 bonus, Pat Williams said he took StarCaps to get excess fluid off his joints.
At the start of the Vikings' 2006 training camp, Pat Williams -- whose weight is listed as 317 pounds but who plays much heavier -- was placed on the physically unable to perform list.
Pat Williams testified that no one told him not to take StarCaps and that he would not have taken it if he had known it contained bumetanide. The NFL contends that players are ultimately responsible for what they put into their bodies.
Both Kevin Williams and Pat Williams acknowledged under cross-examination that their contracts barred last-ditch efforts to lose weight, including diuretics, a steam room or fasting.
"Your focus was making sure you made the weigh-in, correct?" NFL attorney Joe Schmitt asked Kevin Williams. The All-Pro said yes and later said the Vikings had withheld $60,000 of his bonus as a result of the case, an amount that Pat Williams also said the Vikings had withheld from him.
Attorneys for the Williamses contend NFL officials knew StarCaps contained bumetanide -- even though it was not listed as an ingredient on the label -- and did not specifically notify players or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Williamses' attorneys also argue that the NFL inconsistently applied its anti-doping policy and that some players who earlier tested positive for diuretics were not punished. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league properly administered its anti-drug policy.
The Williamses, who are not related, sued the NFL for unspecified damages and attorneys' fees. Among the issues to be settled at trial is whether the NFL has to follow Minnesota labor law when it comes to drug testing.
Kevin Williams testified that he probably is missing out on marketing opportunities such as football camps because of publicity over the positive doping test. But under Schmitt's questioning, Williams had trouble putting a dollar figure with his complaint; he could not say if he was making more or less than $50,000 for those events in the offseason before he tested positive.
Pat Williams testified that he canceled his charitable events last year but later acknowledged he had to keep his schedule open because of the ongoing court case.
Asked by Schmitt if he had suffered any emotional distress, Kevin Williams said: "Not anything I need to take medication for."
Kevin Williams also testified that he told his wife, his agent, head coach Brad Childress and perhaps an attorney that he had tested positive. Pat Williams said he talked to his wife, his agent, Childress and Kevin Williams. Both Williamses said they did not tell the media.
"I haven't told anyone other than on a need-to-know basis," Kevin Williams said.
Just who leaked the test results for the Williamses is an issue at trial. The players say the league leaked the results in violation of Minnesota law, a claim the NFL denies.
Agents for the Williamses are expected to testify Thursday.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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