DENVER (CN) – Two Denver Broncos sued the NFL, challenging their suspensions, claiming the league’s testing process was “replete with violations of the steroid policy.”
Genos “D.J.” Williams, an eight-year linebacker, and Ryan McBean, a five-year defensive end, both starters, allege multiple mistakes, from “no chain of custody” for Williams’ urine specimen to “several departures from the NFL Specimen Collection Procedures” in handling McBean’s sample.
They ask the Denver County Court to enjoin their suspensions during court proceedings. Both say they were suspended for six games, without pay, for the 2012 season.
Williams claims that his urine sample went missing overnight.
McBean claims a document shows that his sample arrived at the testing lab 6 days before he produced the sample.
The men say the flaws were so evident that even the NFL official in charge of suspensions, Executive Vice President Harold Henderson, said there were “troubling” gaps in the chain of custody and “an environment of haste, rushing, confusion and short cuts.”
In a bizarre twist, both men claim they were suspended because the doctor serving as independent administrator of the league’s steroid policy decided that their urine was “not … a human specimen.”
But both men say that, in according with the league’s steroid-testing policy, the specimen collector had a “frontal view” of them as they produced the samples.
The complaint claims that the specimen-collector who took the urine samples was fired after the NFL reviewed how the samples were handled, citing his failure to “fulfill his duties and obligations … including with regard to the collection, handling and safeguarding of the Williams urine specimen and the McBean urine specimen.”
The men also say that Henderson overstepped his authority as the league’s chief of discipline in multiple ways, including delaying his decision beyond policy-specified limits and communicating with other NFL officials about the case. Because of Henderson’s delays, “the players were forced to live for months, rather than days, with the threat of a suspension hanging over their heads,” the complaint states.
The men cite Major League Baseball’s recent rescission of a suspension of National League MVP Ryan Braun, due to even fewer errors in the sample collection process.
The NFL players claim the delay in making a decision benefited the league because it was “riding a wave of publicity flowing from [Tim] Tebow’s rise to stardom.”
The league therefore “benefited by keeping the Broncos as competitive as possible during the 2011 playoff run” and pushed the suspensions back until the start of the next season, according to the complaint.
They seek vacatur of the arbitration awards and an injunction to delay their suspensions until the case can be examined.
Their lead counsel is Marci Gilligan, with Ridley McGreevy & Winocur.