NFL exec: I discipline every player
MINNEAPOLIS -- An NFL executive testified in court that he consistently applied the league's anti-doping policy, and alleged Thursday that the lead attorney for two Minnesota Vikings stars leaked information about their positive test for a banned drug.
The league's vice president for law and labor policy, Adolpho Birch, was on the witness stand before a Hennepin County judge for more than 3 hours, as the case of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams against the NFL continued for a fourth day.
Vikings head coach Brad Childress and vice president for football operations Rob Brzezinski are scheduled to appear Friday, and perhaps a financial official from the league.
The attorney for the players, Peter Ginsberg, said he wasn't the source of the media report in October 2008 that first brought this complicated legal fight to public light. Ginsberg will ask judge Gary Larson to add his denial of Birch's accusation to Friday's record.
Birch testified that in 2006 he told the league's independent drug advisor, Dr. John Lombardo, that Lombardo was improperly interpreting policy by issuing exemptions for inadvertent use of the diuretic bumetanide.
The drug is at the root of the conflict, with the Williamses contending the NFL doesn't have the right to suspend them for four games for a positive test. They're arguing the league's anti-doping policy application violated Minnesota labor laws that give employers no more than three days to tell workers they failed a drug test and require them to preserve their confidentiality.
The NFL, on the other hand, contends the Vikings employ the players and can't subject league-wide drug testing policy to individual state laws.
Attorneys for the Williamses also argue the NFL has unevenly enforced the policy and didn't properly inform players about the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, pointing to Lombardo's earlier testimony that some players tested positive for banned diuretics before the Williamses but weren't punished. The pair took StarCaps, which didn't include bumetanide on the label.
The league has a no-tolerance policy, making players responsible for what's in their bodies even if they didn't intend to take a substance that's banned.
The Williamses have alleged the leak of the initial report came from the NFL, which Birch denied. He took that stance further under examination from another attorney for the players, Steven Rau, by accusing Ginsberg of breaching the confidentiality of the program.
"That would be the most logical person," Birch said.
Dr. Bryan Finkle, a toxicology consultant for the league who works with Lombardo on the program, also testified Thursday. So did the agents for both players, who said publicity from the court case has unfairly hurt them off the field.
Pat Williams' agent, Angelo Wright, said his client had to cancel several community service opportunities and also tabled an endorsement deal with a California energy drink company that he said could have paid him $450,000 over three years.
Kevin Williams' agent, Tom Condon, said the situation could hurt his client's chance of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kevin Williams is an All-Pro defensive tackle entering his eighth season with the Vikings.
There were a few moments of levity during a drawn-out day of peppering witnesses. There were questions about dozens of memos and documents, and lawyers on both sides frequently asked to flip back and forth among pieces of evidence.
Attorneys for the players spent several minutes searching for the right documents, which led to some delays. Larson encouraged efficiency and expediency, at one point telling NFL attorney Dan Nash to hurry up. Rau once laughed at his inability to pronounce bumetanide, but Birch didn't crack a smile.
After discussing the witness schedule and the possibility of more testimony next week, Rau mentioned to the judge that Pat Williams has a family vacation scheduled. The judge said the trial could continue without the players in attendance.
"There's no reason for them to sit here. I'm sure they've been bored to death," Larson said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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