Chief among those things being our record and now, hat tipped to AOL Fanhouse, some borderline harassment at the hands of the league's drug policy.
During a routine round of mandatory drug testing last August, Washington's urine sample was flagged as suspicious, and by league rule he was placed in Stage One of the NFL's substance abuse program. His urine was classified as diluted -- a potential sign of a player using a masking agent to hide illegal performance enhancers from drug screens.
This hasn't yet approached excessive, though I don't think you need to classify persons who haven't actually failed any drug test as being part of a program designed to prevent people from doing drugs. I'm no big city piss examiner, but the simple solution to this would seem to be random testing in the future and that's the end of it. If you want to hide urine tests, presumably you need to know the when-and-where in order to prepare, and the league can withold that information as necessary.
And that's what they did, in part, but not all.
He was subjected to random testing throughout the season, pregame urine testing and -- most humiliating, friends say -- psychiatric evaluation.
Regardless of how humiliating it is, I cannot imagine that process engenders much respect from the players for said policy. The presumption of good faith by all parties towards one another would go a long way towards compliance, in my opinion.
So what's up with the psychiatric testing? If you suspect a player used drugs, the first order of business should be establishing that fact (or not). What, exactly, was Washington asked to evaluate psychiatrically during these meetings? Since he hadn't actually failed a drug test, were they hoping he would inadvertently reveal he was tricking the drug test? If he's innocent, doesn't the presence of psychiatric evaluation kind of sort of presume he's using drugs? Also, psychiatrists aren't free.
Washington: I do not know why I'm here.
Psychiatrist: We're worried about your drug problem.
Washington: I do not have a drug problem, nor have I ever failed a test.
Psychiatrist: ORLY again?
Psychiatrist: (He's good) But your urine was diluted.
Psychiatrist: Have you considered drinking less water?
Washington: I'm done with this.
Psychiatrist: That will be $300.
It gets worse:
Washington learned of the diluted sample after the Redskins had just begun their preseason schedule. He was subject to testing 36 hours before game time for as many times as a league medical adviser saw fit. He would have to travel to New York for intervention meetings. Missing a meeting or a testing appointment could be construed as attempting to avoid taking a drug test and Washington would be subject to a mandatory four-game suspension, his name publicized.
Intervention meetings? To intervene on what, that he hydrated too much? Cherry goes on top:
But the Tuesday before the Redskins' 36-30 overtime thriller against Jacksonville on Oct. 1, Washington canceled a United Way event because he had been summoned to New York to meet with a league counselor. Washington raged at the perceived humiliation, once threatening to refuse the session, which could have triggered a four-game suspension. Tuesday is the one day players have off during the week.
"They wanted some things from you, and no, I wasn't happy about it. I had to go to New York a couple of times. They wanted me to see the league's psychiatrist. And I pouted a little about that. They wanted you to pee before game day and if you didn't, you weren't playing. They kind of treated you like you were a criminal, and yes, I was definitely mad about that. I always think of myself as a fun person, but last year, there was nothing about it that was fun."
Thus per the NFL, which has not suspended Marcus Washington, there's a player being fed psychobabble and counseling sessions that hasn't actually done anything wrong
. I 100% support "weed"ing out drugs in the NFL, but let's do so in a rational manner that treats innocent players fairly. Psychiatric counseling is prescriptive for drug users, meaning its use should be restrained up until that moment that drug use is proven, through a failed test. It does nothing to resolve suspicious behavior (admitting here that on occasion smoke is preceded by fire). It simply insults in the best case, or else prevents charitable contributions of in the worst, a player who hasn't violated anything.
Be strict on drugs, NFL, but do so reasonably. You can prove definitively that a player is or isn't using drugs without resorting to psychiatric humiliation. If your goal is to eliminate excessive hydration though, congratulations are in order:
"I don't ever want to go through what I went through last year," Washington said. "I'll drink a little bit of water, but from now it's all lemonade, or Gatorade or something. That will never happen to me again."
Take that, H2O.