Does the NFL Need to Tweak Its Steroid Policy to Allow for Lesser Suspensions?

When Bears fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo saw his name on the ESPN bottom-line ticker, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

It said that he had been suspended four games for violating the league’s anti-steroid policy. And while the four-game suspension was entirely true, the second part was not. Ayanbadejo actually hadn’t take any steroids, just an anti-estrogen supplement that he claims to have taken on accident.

But even though Ayanbadejo had a good reputation around the league as being a clean player and it was proven that he only took this supplement for about 3-4 weeks, he still got the same four-game suspension that players who use steroids or HGH for longer periods of time would have gotten.

The hard part in all of this is deciding whether to believe Ayanbadejo’s word, but he seemed genuine and forthcoming on ESPN’s “Jim Rome is Burning,” saying that he has hired nutritionists in the past and has been diligent about checking everything he’s put into his body. I know, I know, they all say that.

But even so, Ayanbadejo has a point because players that are accused of crimes and/or caught in adverse situations off the field at least have the chance to tell their side of the story and be judged, whether to the courts or to commissioner Roger Goodell.

Ayanbadejo also believes that the intent of the player being busted for a banned substance should be taken into account, much like how players’ intents in cases involving off-the-field incidents are weighed when levying any kind of punishment.

He at least wanted to meet with the commissioner but he never got that chance, so he went on “Rome is Burning” to tell his side of the story.

Whether you believe Ayanbadejo or not, he raises the interesting question of why the NFL feels the need to just throw all of their “banned substance” users into one corner and give them the same unwavering four-game penalty every time.

The Lions’ Shaun Rogers got the same four-game suspension for what was reported to be use of a weight-loss supplement, and if that’s true, it just doesn’t seem right that players like that should get the same suspension as guys who have been juicing for months and maybe even years at a time. The competitive advantage gained by using steroids or HGH is much greater. In Ayanbadejo’s case, the use of an anti-estrogen pill for a short documented period of time isn’t the same as some players who’ve been caught for steroid use over months.

Unfortunately, Ayanbadejo isn’t exactly a household name, and it just might take a bigger-name player to get the NFL to make some changes to the policy some day.

Now, the main question is whether or not the NFL Player’s Association takes up this fight to help players who might be suspended in the future.