NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said that if negotiators for the players union and management fail to agree upon a new drug program, he will institute a drug plan of his own, and it will include random testing.
Rozelle told The New York Times that his program would require every player to undergo urinalysis a specified number of times during the season and would include a graduated schedule of penalties, including suspension and banishment. He indicated that he wants the new procedures in place perhaps as soon as May, when most teams hold minicamps.
Rozelle did not return several calls yesterday.
Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, had told The Washington Post of Rozelle's intentions last week and said that if Rozelle tried to implement his own program, including random testing, "we'll fight him to the hilt."
Rozelle told The Times that any drug policy he would institute could override the collective bargaining agreement because the "integrity of the game" was at stake. An article exists in the current bargaining agreement that allows the commissioner this right.
Upshaw has said that the players will accept stiffer penalties, including a one-year suspension for third-time drug offenders, but will not accept random testing. "Legally, to protect themselves, players have to know when a drug test is coming," Upshaw said.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, NFL players undergo urinalyses as part of their mandatory preseason physicals. Players may be tested during the season only if the team physician feels there is a "reasonable cause" to suspect a drug problem.
Ed Garvey, former executive director of the NFLPA, said yesterday that if Rozelle tries to implement his own random drug-testing program without receiving approval from the players union, the union can thwart him legally by filing a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board or through the league's own arbitration process.
Garvey, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, said that any drug program "is very much a part of the bargaining process, and he Rozelle can't act unilaterally. He would like to believe he is above bargaining, but he is not. He is a part of management."