Aug/28/12 08:43 AM Filed in: DJ Williams
A federal appeals court has backed the NFL over the performance-enhancing drug suspension of Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams.
In an unsigned ruling, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Williams' six-game ban, saying that it is not the court's place to intervene in this kind of employment dispute.
"[A] court's role in these types of arbitration cases is simply to determine whether the arbitrator strayed from the collective-bargaining agreement," the judges wrote.
Williams' suspension stems from a failed urine test taken last August. Drug testers found no naturally produced testosterone in the sample Williams provided, leading them to conclude that the urine sample wasn't human. Williams was also accused of subsequently failing a urine test in September for the same reasons.
In a November test, the specimen collector reported that Williams turned away during the test and had a suspicious bottle fall to the ground from his waist area. Williams kicked the bottle toward his locker, the collector said. When Williams was asked to retrieve the bottle, he returned with a different bottle, the collector said.
Williams denied wrongdoing and was not punished for the other two tests. His attorney argued that chain-of-custody problems made the August test results unreliable and that the arbitrator in the case — an NFL executive — was biased.
Williams filed suit against the NFL in March, seeking to overturn the suspension. A federal district court judge dismissed the lawsuit in June, saying courts have only narrow jurisdiction in labor-arbitration disputes.
The 10th Circuit judges agreed and issued their ruling without hearing oral arguments in the case — a sign that the judges found the case routine.
But, the ruling did provide one more illuminating passage on the normally closed-door world of NFL drug testing. After earlier noting that the specimen collector present for Williams' first two failed tests admitted to watching Williams from the side as opposed to having the required frontal view, the judges quote a not-previously-public section from arbitrator Harold Henderson's initial ruling: "It is suggested that the NFL and NFL [Players Association] take steps to address what appears to be, at least in some places, an environment of haste, rushing, confusion and short cuts around the collection process."
Williams' lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said he and Williams have not yet talked about whether to appeal Monday's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ginsberg said he was disappointed in the ruling.
"As long as the NFL and its appointed arbitrators continue to ignore the mandated procedures, players like D.J. will continue to be punished unfairly," Ginsberg said.