http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football ... shaw_x.htm
By Skip Wood, USA TODAY
NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw says dietary supplements, many of which do not reveal their composition, are and always will be an NFL necessity.
The problem is that many supplements contain the stimulant ephedrine, which the league banned last spring with the union's approval, and usage has resulted in suspensions of at least five players this season for four games each. That penalty is stronger than for testing positive for illegal drugs such as cocaine or marijuana.
"What our guys are doing is not normal," Upshaw said Wednesday. "Our guys are not going to work every day and sitting behind a desk and then going home.
"Our players need these things, whether it's for anti-inflammatory reasons or for joints or any number of other things. Are you telling me we shouldn't even take vitamins, either?"
Ephedrine also is banned by the Olympics and the NCAA but not by the NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball. Upshaw, the only union chief among the USA's major sports who actually played the game on the big-time level, wants to change the way the league punishes the players who test positive.
"Test positive now, you're out four games and you lose a quarter of your salary," he said. "Is that fair to (Kansas City Chiefs linebacker) Lew Bush? He took the same supplement, and one time it was over the level and the next time it wasn't.
"It's getting to the point where it's not doing what it was supposed to be doing. We banned ephedrine for health reasons, to protect the players' health, but what we didn't ban was supplements across the board."
The ban was put into place partly because of the 2001 training-camp death of Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died of heatstroke but whose death was not directly linked to ephedrine.
Upshaw's proposal, which he informally has discussed with Harold Henderson, NFL vice president of player relations, is to come up with a league-sanctioned supplement that contains no ephedrine.
"We already have companies working on this for us," he said. "The (government) says it's five or six or 10 years down the road before they would be able to approve it, but we need to work with the league to get this done a lot more quickly than that."
Until then, Upshaw wants to work to reduce the penalty, "from somewhere between the one and four-game range," he said