Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has never been shy about poking the bear that is the NFL.
He has been fined more than $150,000 for his hits over the years and took a feud with Commissioner Roger Goodell, whom he has called a “devil” and a “dictator,” to the Super Bowl stage. And he really, really hates kids’ participation trophies, but that’s another matter.
Harrison’s latest issue with the NFL again concerns what he perceives to be a lack of transparency over testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
A couple of months ago, he documented on Instagram the process by which urine is collected for testing. It was, he said, his way of sharing what the inside story of being an NFL player with fans.
It was a pretty simple little video in which he showed the cup, the toilet, and the feet of a guy who was standing over him to ensure that the byproduct was, indeed, his. It was interesting.
Until he got tested again Tuesday.
This time, Ryan Willis, who heads up Drug Free Sport and the NFL’s PED testing, told him that recording the process would cause the test to not be counted, which would be considered a positive result.
“Today the NFL came to my house for another random PED test,” Harrison wrote on Instagram. “I was gonna record it like last time but Ryan Willis, the director of the PED program at Drug Free Sports that does testing for the league didn’t want to talk on camera. Since I heard they fired the last guy who let me record the test, I didn’t record it. I’m not trying to get anyone fired who’s just doing their job. I called the @NFLPA to find out what was going on. I guess maybe we’ll find out more tomorrow.”
He added that he had spoken to DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the Players Association. So what, exactly, was Harrison trying to prove, since his first clip pretty effectively showed the process? On Instagram, he explained that he wasn’t trying to cause trouble.
“To clarify – I never have a problem being tested,” Harrison wrote. “I wasn’t videoing the test because I was suspicious of the process. I was only videoing leading up to the actual test to post it on IG for what I think is interesting behind the scenes content for the fans, which I had done when I was tested earlier this year, with no notice of wrongdoing. If the league can invade our space and interrupt our preseason training with shows like ‘Hard Knocks’ because it’s interesting behind-the-scenes content for the fans, why can’t I post this?”
There are, however, valid reasons for keeping drug testing, which was agreed upon by players and the league under the 2011 collective bargaining agreement and again in 2014, from being transparent. One concern is that video of the process could be studied to find ways to manipulate test results. Someone could also try to look at the information or the numbers on the cups or try to create their own cups. The Olympic doping scandal at the Olympics shows that supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard for testing can be compromised.
“A player may not film a drug test. Both the league and NFLPA recognize that the collection protocols and procedures are designed to ensure the accuracy and identification of the specimens to be tested,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement emailed to The Post. “To maintain the integrity of the protocols and protect against the possibility of manipulation of the process at the time or during future tests, the policy prohibits devices and other objects in the collection area or taking photographs or video of specific collections.
“There are a number of protections in place for both the player and collector to ensure that the protocols are properly followed. In addition to the multi-step verification of identity and confirmations of specimen and bottle integrity, the protocols expressly allow both the player and collector to note and report for investigation any perceived irregularity or deviation in the collection process.”