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Josh Gordon’s Drug Problem Is An Indictment Of The NFL’s  Player Support Systems 

Check out the reporter looking sideways at Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon -- a perplexing lad who prefers sizzurp, Kush and Patron shots to the high of scoring TDs on Sunday afternoon.

Check out the reporter looking sideways at Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon — a perplexing lad who prefers sizzurp, Kush and Patron shots to the high of scoring TDs on Sunday afternoon. He's like, "Dude ! Have you lost your got damn mind? Are you high on something right now?!!"

He doesn't get why a young, black man with so much to gain is anxiously awaiting the NFL’s new policies for substances of abuse and performance-enhancing drugs.

On Friday, the 32 NFL player reps unanimously voted to approve the new policies for substances of abuse and performance-enhancing drugs. However, the new agreement authorizes the union to agree to the deal and league spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted that a formal pact has not yet been reached and "there continues to be significant unresolved issues.''

Once the new drug policy is formally cemented however, Gordon will have his suspension reduced from a season-long ban to 10 games. It will go into effect once finalized by the NFL and NFLPA.


Under terms of the old policy, a violation of the substance-abuse policy in Stage Three results in an indefinite ban, with the chance to apply for reinstatement after a year. That's why Gordon was originally suspended for all of 2014, with his reinstatement classification to be decided after the season.


Under terms of the new policy: A first violation of the substance abuse laws results in a two-week fine; a second violation results in a four-week fine; a third violation results in a four-game suspension; and a fourth violation results in the 10-game ban.

Gordon will be suspended for 10 games, because it's his fourth violation of the substance-abuse policy. With the ban beginning with the opener last week, Gordon would be eligible to be reinstated Nov. 23 in Atlanta.
 

Gordon’s Violation Elevation


He violated the substance abuse policy at least once in Stage One to move to Stage Two; he violated it twice in Stage Two to earn the two-game/four-check suspension in 2013 for what he said was codeine in his cough syrup. Those in the know understand that he was on that purple drank…that “lean.” He was sipping on some sizzurp, which is a ghetto concoction consisting of a spoonful of promethazine/codeine syrup showing the characteristic purple color.

 

 

It was mainstreamed, popularized and promoted by knucklehead hip-pop icons such as Lil Wayne. Gordon violated it a fourth time in Stage Three when he tested positive for marijuana at the beginning of the year.


 

 

Rapper Pimp C died from complications related to drinking that purple dank. A recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report said one in 10 teens admits to using cough syrup or cold medicine to get high . It’s real in the field. Drugs that are glorified in movies and songs have always affected the younger generation and at 23 years of age, Gordon is still learning life’s ropes. His 6-3, 235-pound frame misrepresents him as anything other than a baby playing a man’s sport, with superhuman expectations.

Gordon might also have to serve two more games following his DWI conviction on Tuesday. He was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after speeding down a street in Raleigh, North Carolina with a blood-alcohol level measured at .09, just above the state's legal limit of .08.

Gordon will receive probation and undergo a substance-abuse assessment after pleading guilty to the charge. Acting Wake County district attorney Ned Mangum said Gordon got a 60-day suspended jail sentence and one year of unsupervised probation. 

Under terms of the new drug policy, a DUI conviction or plea agreement carries a mandatory two-game suspension. If Gordon serves the full 12 games, he'd be eligible to return Dec. 7 against the Colts and play the final four games of the season.

While the NFL is "assessing" his mental state, Gordon’s history of substance abuse kind of tells me all I need to know and it didn’t begin when he became an NFL star. He’s exhibited a pattern of addictive behavior going back to his college days at Baylor. He was suspended twice, the second time indefinitely after failing a drug test. He transferred to Utah, where he sat out the 2011 season. After being taken by the Browns in the supplemental draft, he admitted to failing a drug test at Utah as well.



Gordon told ondecker.com that he's not an addict and isn't cool with the social media grief. He said he checked into Cliffside rehabilitation facility in Malibu, Ca. after his DWI as a vacation getaway, and was found not to be an addict.


"Do I believe I have a drug problem? Definitely not,'' Gordon said. "In this case, I was exposed to it from second-hand (smoke), and prior to I've been drug-free and have been staying that way – and this incident has been causing a backlash of negative attention and negative media of me being an addict or a junkie, or using drugs terribly too much, which is definitely not the case and I'd like to definitely have that out in the open and be clear with that for sure.''

Sounds like a ton of denial to me. That’s sad in itself. Gordon doesn’t understand that he has a substance abuse problem and it seems he has no intention of stopping. He’s already lost most of this season. 

As The Shadow League previously mentioned in a 2013 article on the Justin Blackmon substance abuse saga, these guys have dependency issues. The fact that recovery isn’t being addressed with the same vigor that the NFL dispenses punishment for these infractions exposes a twisted and sick cycle of player exploitation.

Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon has the gift.


 

 

And the curse.

 

There’s a laundry list of superstars, in all genres of life, who are victims of negative and addictive behavior. Behavior that’s as powerful and gripping as the desire that drives their majestic talents.

Drugs and alcohol abuse are often the most destructive addictions for an athlete and entertainer. Blackmon, a 6-1, 200-pound monster-talent out of Oklahoma State, is one of these conflicted savants.

The NFL suspended Blackmon on Tuesday for the first four games of the 2013 season for his second substance violation in less than a year. He loses four-weeks of checks, and the Jaguars could cut him without having to pay about $10 million that remains on a four-year, $18.5 million contract…


Blackmon is going to be fighting personal demons for a long time and it’s going to be a journey that requires patience, dedication and tough love.


One more failed test and Blackmon misses an entire year. His behavioral pattern suggests he’s due for another one. It’s kind of foul how these types of things most frequently happen to a team with the least margin of era—like the Jags.”

 

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Lightening Strikes Quickly

Less than a year after I wrote that piece, Blackmon got bagged for marijuana possession and a driving violation in Edmond, Oklahoma.

The idle hand of an addict NFL star wide receiver is definitely the work of the devil. I question the executives and owners of these teams. They promote and benefit from players with all types of substance abuses and social and psychological issues, without offering them any help. Only when the messy reality storms out of control, affects the checks and the team is put in a negative light, does ownership offer any pulse on the situation.

Suspending Josh Gordon for half of the season and isolating him from his teammates and his major support system really isn’t the answer. Sure, he has to pay the consequences for being irresponsible, lacking self-control and maturity. Like Blackmon, he’s obviously working out some issues and his various substances abuses help him deal with a deeper pain that money and superstardom can’t cure. Responsibility? Sure, every man should exhibit it, but when your mind is clouded by drugs, you tend to exist in a pattern of constant intercourse with irresponsibility.



Where are the support systems for these guys? How come they have to get arrested or be suspended before the organization and team doctors can acknowledge a problem. In protecting their precious investments, shouldn't teams be proactive in getting troubled players the help needed to be an asset on and off the field.

Twenty-three years old is a little young to give up on a brother in this country. 


A star player, who can’t lay off the piff or the juice long enough to be at his best, is worthless to a team. Cleveland has been playing some inspired football and once Johnny Manziel takes the reins and Gordon is back in the mix, the city will really be rocking. In the meantime, losing Gordon’s 87 catches for 1,646 yards in 14 games is a big blow to an offense that needs all of the weapons it can muster.

"And I know for him, he wants to be playing football and as us being his teammates we want him back around here, “Manziel said. “At the same time, it's a delicate situation and one that has a lot of uncertainty for sure."

Gordon should be shining on grand NFL stages and seeing his name mentioned among the game’s elite on NFL Network every Sunday. Instead, he’s working at Sarchione Auto Group in Randolph, Ohio. It’s pathetic.



Some say it’s a lesson learned for a spoiled NFL athlete who doesn’t appreciate the opportunity to live like a King in a world where so many people struggle to be acknowledged, make ends meet and be respected for their talents.

We also can’t have it both ways. Substance abuse is a well-documented evil in this country. We are taught to treat it as a sickness and a disease. It’s not an indictment on whether the fabric of a person is good or bad. So while people blast Gordon for blowing all of this opportunity, once again they are removing the human element from the situation and treating a person differently because he happens to be able to catch a football.

Substance abuse for people who are truly sick and not just selfish renegades is a life-long process. Michael Irvin wasn’t sick, he was excessive and liked fine Texas coke and hookers in cowgirl boots a bit too much. He was able to mature and get a grip on his vices.

These guys obviously have a roller coaster of emotional issues and the first course of action shouldn’t be worrying about how many games they are suspended and alienating them further. Rehabbing these dudes and getting them the proper psychological help should be the adjoining goals of the often contentiously-partnered NFL and NFLPA. Labeling them as bad guys who do drugs and adding to their denial doesn’t help. Who wants to publicly acknowledge that they are an addict?

Football is a tough sport, but the league office and fans need to stop treating players superhero robots. Let’s handle these substance abuse problems with some sensitivity and modern, medical understanding of the situation.



Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon are waiting on reinstatement when they should be in the process of achieving peaceful souls, and the franchises who value their athletic abilities also need to be leaders in the healing and reclamation process.

 

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The NFLPA released specific information on new drug-testing policies:

 

NEUTRAL ARBITRATION: An Independent Arbitrator will hear appeals for positive test violations of both Substances of Abuse and Performance Enhancing Drug Policies. The NFL and NFLPA will jointly select, approve and pay for retention of 3-5 arbitrators.

AMENDING MARIJUANA POLICIES: The threshold for a positive test for marijuana will increase to 35 ng/ml from the previous limit of 15 ng/ml. There will be additional steps for players who test positive for the substance before suspension.

RETROACTIVITY: Discipline of players for certain violations in the 2014 League Year will have their discipline adjusted by certain aspects of the new policies.



DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE: Players successfully rejected the league’s proposal to issue discipline upon arrest, prior to adjudication. A two-game suspension will be issued upon conviction or plea agreement for violations of law involving alcohol and driving.

AMPHETAMINES: During the off-season, a first time positive test for amphetamines without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) will now be evaluated under the Substances of Abuse Policy. During the season, a positive test without a TUE will continue to be a violation of the Performance Enhancing Drug Policy.

HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE TESTING: Testing for HGH will occur in the 2014 season. Players have the right to challenge any aspect of the science of the HGH isoforms test. The collection of blood specimens is prohibited on game days.


DISCIPLINE FOR BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY: The NFL and NFLPA will have the right to retain independent investigators to review cases where player confidentiality as related to the drug policies has been breached. Employees of the NFL/NFLPA/Clubs, players, certified contract advisors (agents) and policy administrators found to be in violation will face fines up to $500,000 and/or termination or other discipline.

Previously, the Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified in 2011 utilized the policies in place under the 2006 CBA.


JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.