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New CBA removes all substance-abuse suspensions for positive drug tests

If at least 50 percent plus one of the dues-paying members of the NFL Players Association vote in favor of the proposed CBA, no player will be suspended during the next decade for testing positive for marijuana or any other substance of abuse.

The 2020 substance-abuse policy, a link to which has been distributed to all players eligible to vote via email from NFLPA general counsel Tom DePaso, removes all suspensions for positive tests. Instead, players will be subject to fines only for a positive drug test.

Players in stage one of the program who test positive face no penalty at all, other than being advanced to stage two. In stage two, positive tests result only in fines.

For the first violation, the player loses one half of a game check. For the second violation, he loses a week’s pay. For the third violation, it’s two weeks’ salary. For the fourth and all subsequent violations, it’s a three-game fine. While that can get expensive, the player will still be allowed to play.

Suspensions under the new CBA arise only from a failure to cooperate with testing or clinical care while in stage two, and a suspension happens only at the fourth violation (three games). The fifth violation results in a four-game suspension, the sixth violation triggers an eight-game suspension, and the seventh violation leads to banishment for at least a year.

Stage three of the substance-abuse program has been removed from the new CBA.

While the harshest penalty of a minimum banishment of at least one year still exists under the new CBA, a player who fails to cooperate with testing or clinical care seven different times arguably doesn’t want to remain in the league. Players who cooperate with testing and their clinical programs will never be banished. Indeed, they’ll never even be suspended, no matter how many times they test positive.