CFL, CFLPA to discuss strengthening drug policy


The CFL and CFL Players’ Association will meet to strengthen the league’s drug policy after it came under heavy criticism from the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The league and union made the joint announcement Wednesday with neither saying when the meetings would begin.

“As I have said since the day I was appointed commissioner, we have an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our players, and the integrity of our game,” CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said in a statement.

WADA has been critical of the CFL for having an “irresponsible” drug policy, and on Monday, WADA director general David Howman said the league needed to overhaul a system that undermines drug education of amateur athletes by failing to suspend players who test positive while competing in other leagues.

The CFL and its players will focus on three areas, including what penalties Canadian university and NCAA players should face as they attempt to enter the CFL after testing positive at school or the league combine; what should happen when a CFL player tests positive, and the frequency of random testing in the CFL.

“When this policy was introduced, it represented the best efforts of the CFL and CFLPA,” said union president Scott Flory said. “We were one of the first professional sport policies to allow blood sample collection to test for HGH.

“That being said, we are actively looking at updating the policy in a way that works for us, a policy that has been respected by the players and worked very effectively since it was introduced.”

The CFL recently severed its partnership with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which had administered the policy for four years. That decision was reached after Dr. Christiane Ayotte, the head of the only WADA-accredited drug-testing lab in Canada, said her Montreal facility would no longer test CFL samples because the league didn’t suspend first-time offenders.

“I often say our best can be better and that is true of a policy that was heavily praised when it was introduced but now needs improvement,” said Orridge. “But make no mistake, the CFL will act in the best interests of our players, our game and our league.

“We will not have exact terms dictated to us by outside agencies nor will we be held to a standard that no North American professional team sport is meeting.”

The league’s drug policy doesn’t name or suspend first-time offenders, rather it subjects them to mandatory testing for two years. A second offence results in a three-game suspension while a third earns a player a year-long ban.

Any player testing positive a fourth time receives a lifetime suspension. The CFL says there hasn’t been any second positive tests since the program was enacted.

Five CIS players tested positive at the CFL combine in March but three were drafted and signed to contracts. The league says it will treat those players as first-time offenders but suspensions they received from their schools aren’t being upheld in the pro ranks.

“This league has consistently communicated to CCES that we are open to positive change and we welcome its advice and even criticism, but there has to be trust between partners, change cannot happen overnight, and a proper process must be followed,” Orridge said. “I have endeavoured to make the same point to the director-general of the World Anti-Doping Agency and look forward to speaking with him.”

The statement also said the CFL is currently talking to two drug-testing labs that have extensive experience with pro sports leagues.

– CP