Supplements: The Silent Career Killer

Written by :
Published on : September 13, 2016



We always hear about NFL players getting suspended for failed drug tests. In today’s game it is a harsh reality that all teams must face. People aren’t perfect. They make mistakes and sometimes that includes taking drugs. People mostly take drugs for recreation but sometimes, as can be the case with professional athletes, they take them to gain a competitive edge. Either way, the NFL is vigilant in trying to keep all drugs out of football. Players are routinely caught and faced with the consequences for their actions, but what happens when an NFL player has something in their system that they didn’t knowingly ingest?


 That look when your career is in jeopardy.


Philadelphia Eagles offensive linemen Lane Johnson is facing a 10-game suspension for his second positive drug test. It wasn’t weed that did him in, but an undisclosed performance enhancing drug. This is a big hit for Johnson and it isn’t his first offense. Financially speaking, the Eagles can now recoup about $1.7 million in bonus money should they choose to, and his base game salaries that were once guaranteed no longer are. For the 26-year-old tackle who is in the first year of a new contract extension, this is could be career-threatening. Right now he should be entering his prime and playing the best football of his life, but instead he will be on the shelf until November and the Eagles could void his $56 million contract altogether, should they feel so inclined.


When Johnson was last suspended four games for PEDs back in 2014, he took full responsibility for letting his team down. This time he is singing a different tune and is throwing some of the blame at the NFLPA. Lane Johnson is not accepting responsibility for this positive PED test and is instead blaming an amino acid supplement that he purchased from a league approved app. Blaming a tainted supplement is nothing new. Recently it was Antonio Gates who missed 4 games in 2015 using this same excuse. There’s no way to know the truth but if you know anything about the dietary supplement industry, you know this isn’t all that far-fetched.


Johnson claims that the players union does not stand up for it’s members in instances such as this because they approved this app and recommended that players use it. But the NFLPA responded by reminding him that the final responsibility for what enters their body lies with the players, that the NFLPA does not approve any supplements and that players are reminded within the app and at team meetings that supplements may contain ingredients not listed on the label. With all of that information available to him, I don’t think Johnson has much hope for overturning this suspension upon appeal but that’s not the important issue in this story.


 NFLPA spokesman, George Atallah says Lane Johnson is full of shit.


The important issue is that supplements may contain ingredients that aren’t listed on the label. What other product in this country is available for public consumption that allows the manufacturers to include mystery ingredients? There’s nothing to stop companies from including fillers and cheaper ingredients to increase profits and that’s exactly what they do. This is ludicrous and it’s time for the FDA to step it up and fully regulate the supplement industry.


The FDA’s logic for continuing to allow the dietary supplement industry to run wild and adulterate their products is that these dietary supplements are classified as food products and therefore are not subject to the strict standards governing the sale of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Obviously the companies can still be held liable in court for any misleading statements made about the supplements or their ingredients but in cases like Lane Johnson’s (if he is telling the truth) the damage is already done and the victim has lost out on millions of dollars.


Who knows what's in there.
Who knows what’s in there.


Supplements are not food. They are powders and pills that claim to have specific nutrients or vitamins in them and are used by athletes to help them achieve and maintain peak physical condition. It’s dangerous for these companies to be allowed to police themselves, and it is not in their best interest to be honest about what is in their products. As long as they can make money by cutting corners and using cheaper and more dangerous ingredients, that is exactly what they will do. Just like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle illustrated how the meat industry at the turn of the 20th century needed to be regulated. Cases like this show why the supplement industry needs regulation.


There are many ingredients that are common in supplements that are known to be unhealthy or downright dangerous and it’s no secret that the supplement manufacturers disregard these facts. The idea of tainted supplements may seem on the surface as a desperate attempt by players to clear their names after being caught cheating. But there has been at least one case that proved the innocence of an NFL player who tested positive for a banned substance. Back in 2009, a court awarded Rams linebacker, David Vobora, $5.4 million in a case against a supplement company that included a banned ingredient in the product that the player had ingested. After Vobora’s suspension, he claimed that he had studied the ingredient list and consulted the NFL about the product, yet the product still contained PEDs. The court ruled in Vobora’s favor and said that the company had included the ingredient without putting it on the label but nothing has changed. How is that legal?


 David Vobora won in court, but did it have to come to that?


It’s time for the FDA to get on top of this situation. NFL players missing out on millions of dollars is one thing. No one wants to see their favorite player miss time because they did everything they could to operate within the rules and maintain the ludicrous level strength and speed required for pro sports, but still tested positive due to some supplement manufacturing assholes lying about what’s inside that powder that tastes like chocolate piss water. Sports is one thing, but what about other stuff that might be in these supplements and the risk that it puts regular folks at?


Our government is there to protect us from money-hungry companies that put profits ahead of people, it’s about time the FDA remembers that and clamps down on the supplement industry. For an industry that has been estimated to be worth as much as $37 billion, it doesn’t seem like to much to ask that they be forthcoming with the ingredients that they put inside their product. It should have happened a long time ago, but maybe it will take Paul Ryan’s favorite player getting banned for a tainted supplement before anything substantial happens. Until then, it could be your favorite player who gets screwed next.



Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: AFC West

Written by :
Published on : September 5, 2015


This season’s AFC West promises a grueling divisional battle between a Broncos team that may be on the decline and a solidly improved Chiefs defense. Meanwhile, Oakland is looking for a new start with a potentially impressive QB/WR connection, and though you shouldn’t sleep on the San Diego Chargers, you know you will anyway.


Let yourself go as we gaze into this hazy quartz sphere…


Oakland Raiders:

 photo oaklandraiders copy_zpshxurehnc.jpg


Who do you like better as a second year quarterback in a hurting franchise, Blake Bortles or Derek Carr? It’s a trick question. They’re both promising, and they’ve both got a long way to go. I think Carr has the edge at the moment due to having Amari Cooper as a target. I try not to get too excited about any draft prospect before I see them in the regular season (which has been nearly impossible with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston on hand in the preseason), but with Cooper it’s hard not to think that the Raiders made a wise decision.

As far as the coaching switch-up goes, it’s tough to get too excited about Jack Del Rio. That said, it can’t get any worse than Dennis Allen’s attempt to bring Oakland back from the brink. The dude tried, and it just didn’t work. It does help to have a guy like Justin Tuck in the locker room though. Sure his production has declined pretty significantly from his glory days in New York, but you’ve got to imagine he’s worth the contract for his ability to mentor the younger guys.


The crystal ball says:


As with so many other teams on the lower rungs of the NFL’s ladder, this one has some new talent that it needs to mold properly in order to start winning. This is the definition of a building season, and the Raiders are once again destined to remain at the bottom of the AFC West, even if Del Rio’s strategies take hold. At least we get some new Khalil Mack highlights.


Denver Broncos:

 photo denverbroncos_zpsj9y7wmvl.jpg


The NFL’s eternal bridesmaids return this season with some elephant-in-the-room-questions regarding Peyton’s continued high level of production, his health, and his age. These are questions worth asking but I don’t see Manning losing much steam this season. He’ll remain a class-A quarterback, but what about next season? What about the season after that? There’s gonna come a day (sometime soon) when Manning’s going to have to hang up the cleats, giving up the game he loves in favor of pursuing his other passion: endorsements.

I’m also a little concerned about the departure of John Fox. I know Kubiak has a history with the franchise but it’s not like the Broncos exactly suffered under Fox’s reign. Sure, there was an embarrassing Super Bowl drubbing at the hands of the Seahawks, but I find it hard to give up on a top tier coach for one loss, even if it is in THE game. Hey, remember when Danny Trevathan dropped the ball before the end zone on a guaranteed pick-six against Baltimore in the 2013 season, resulting in an automatic touchback? I started paying attention to him after that mostly because of schadenfreude, but was soon impressed by how good a player he actually is. I love that defense in Denver. They’re as fun and dynamic as the offense is methodical and boring.


The crystal ball says:


A strong season will be marred by a few hiccups in adjusting to Kubiak’s return. It’s a strong possibility Denver doesn’t make the playoffs, which will cause that overly earnest fan-base to go apoplectic. This is a team currently in decline, even if that decline is almost imperceptibly gradual.


San Diego Chargers:

 photo sandiegochargers_zpsjys5xbok.jpg


The Chargers are a weird team because they’re sort of a non-factor when you look at the league as a whole. It’s strange because they aren’t a “bad” team, and they usually finish the season with an over .500 record, or something close to it. The Chargers are also a team for which that hoary old “any given Sunday” adage was invented for: it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t take the Chargers for granted. It’s not entirely surprising when they make the playoffs, and it’s even less so when they don’t, but something is missing here. For all of Phil Rivers’ manic facial expressions and gnashing of teeth, this is a team that seems to suffer strongest from a lack of heart. They’re the vanilla pudding of the NFL: good, but unremarkable.

Rivers is the rock here and his contract extension was much deserved, but it seems like he’s got an ever shrinking coterie of talented receivers to throw to, and all the while the running game has remained stagnant. Gates does a great job bucking body image norms (even in the position of tight end), but his age is going to lead to a drop in production that I think we’ve already seen a preview of. There’s a bad stereotypical comparison to make with the SoCal locale they play out of, with a relaxed and lackadaisical attitude. Obviously the players and coaching staff don’t feel that way, but looking in from the outside, it’s hard to believe that this is a club with a strong work ethic or culture.


The crystal ball says:


Rivers will be reliable as ever, but he can only do so much. The run game continues to struggle and the Chargers win just enough games to satisfy fans with another .500 or over season. Keep an eye on that defense though, they’re good and they may start to develop the kind of identity this team sorely needs.


Kansas City Chiefs:

 photo kcchiefs_zps56nfs0dy.jpg


I love Andy Reid and I don’t care who knows it. I love his comeback with the Chiefs after leaving Philadelphia, bruised, broken, and disgraced. Along with Reid, we’ve got another guy with something to prove in QB Alex Smith. He was let go by the ‘Niners, despite playing quite well, in favor of a shinier new model (though I’m guessing plenty of 49ers fans would be happy to have Smith back over Kap at this point). Justin Houston turns an already great d-line into arguably the league’s most terrifying and amped up pass rush. While it’s certainly not the best look to call yourself “the LeBron James of the NFL,” Jamaal Charles’ point is well taken in that he is one of the NFL’s premier running backs. C’mon Jamaal, let’s not forget that LeBron’s favorite athlete is Calvin Johnson!

There are some potential concerns here with a lack of big play receivers, and Charles was hung up with some injuries last season. For a team that doesn’t throw many touchdowns, I’m curious to see if Maclin will be used as a deep threat option, modifying the Chiefs’ game-plan somewhat.


The crystal ball says:


I think the division goes to the Chiefs this year. It’s going to be a tooth and nail street fight with Denver, and it’s going to get nasty. Even if the Broncos do edge them out of divisional champ status, they definitely still make the playoffs in the wildcard spot. The defensive front continues to dominate and the offense grounds, pounds, and stays consistently productive.


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