By Ben Holcomb
Anyone that’s been in high school or college in the last decade or so knows that, if it came down to it – I mean, if it really came down to it, and someone had a gun to your head – you could get your hands on the drug Adderall in a matter of minutes. The honest truth is that the gun never needs to make a cameo. You could have a generic white pill on your desk in a matter of minutes, a matter of phone calls, or a matter of stressful situations, like tests. Many people have tried the drug before, generously taking one off the hands of their ADHD friends as a means of gaining short-term concentration. It’s one of the most commonly “abused” prescription drugs in America today.
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, defensive backs for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, apparently got their hands on some Adderall last week, because they both just tested positive for banned substances and are blaming it on the ADHD reliever. Sherman and Browner are the two starting cornerbacks for an NFC team fighting tooth and nail to get into the playoffs. Richard Shermon, on his twitter account, quickly rebutted the pending suspension by releasing the following statement, ”This [sic]is issue will be resolved soon and the truth will come out. Not worried.”
So what is the truth? Well it’s probably best to start with what we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Adderall is a type of psychostimulant drug, a Pepsi in the cola industry so to speak. It’s not the name of the drug itself, but the company that makes it. It falls under the chemical definition of an amphetamine. It’s used to treat ADHD and, sometimes, narcolepsy. It’s often times referred to as “legal speed”, though the stigma is a little misrepresented. The absolute truth, however, is that when either drug reaches the brain, the larger components comprising both are identical to the brain.
For a professional athlete, Adderall has the potential to heighten focus, strengthen reaction speed, and increase stamina on game day. It’s different than other PED’s in that it doesn’t necessarily make you faster or stronger, but it’s effects or on a more cognitive level. So there is a purpose to it in the world of the National Football League. It’s been used enough to garner the notice of the league’s administrators, who’ve recently added it to the list of banned substances. In a weird way, though, if you have a prescription for the drug, you’re good. This makes of it one of, if not the only, drugs on the banned list that are okay with a doctor’s note.
And that’s where the issue lies, is in the ambiguity.
As recent as a few years back, a place kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tested positive for a banned substance and blamed it on Adderall. This moment marked a floodgate opening within the league for people to use the drug as a scape goat excuse for their discretion. Thanks to new dealings with the NFLPA, the NFL doesn’t release officially what the banned substance was, so they inadvertently enable the excuse of Adderall to proliferate.
And this is where we fall into speculation, but please allow me to pontificate. This whole NFLPA ruling that the drug that flagged the screening is not allowed to be released makes it absolutely impossible for anyone to ever call someone out for using steroids. It’s why it basically never happens anymore. You don’t see a lot of people getting banned for steroids in the NFL. Why not? There sure are a ton of guys that looked like they’re the love child of Fran Stalinofskivitchdavitovichski and Godzilla.
The appealing crutch of Adderall is obvious. There is no stigma attached to it, so if you come out after a failed drug test and just say you took some Adderall once or whatever, people tend to be very forgiving about that. We get it. Most of us have done it before, so let him without Adderall cast the first stone. More or less, it gets them off the hook.
But it’s bullshit. It’s complete and utter bullshit. Excuse my language on this one but I personally find it insulting to the average NFL fans’ intelligence to suggest all of these guys are on Adderall and nothing else. It’s become almost the first step in the appeals process for an NFL player that’s tested positive for a PED. First they take to twitter, to tell everyone everything will be cleared in no time. Then they blame it on Adderall, and file their appeal to the league offices. And then, almost without fail, they will get suspended anyways.
Almost no player in NFL history has blamed their failed test on Adderall and avoided suspension because of it. What does that tell you? It’s pretty clear; these guys aren’t testing positive for Adderall. Sure, it gives you some minor advantages on game day but the things its helping with are things you should already have a heightened sense of in the first place. After all, if you’re in the middle of an NFL stadium, with thousands screaming in the stands and millions more at their televisions, and you’re not focused or energized? Good luck. You don’t need Adderall; you need a stint.
So don’t believe the hype. These players don’t need Adderall and they don’t have ADHD. Most of them have tested positive for something else, though what, we’ll never know. There is always a need to be stronger and bigger in the NFL. The difference between a player in the seventies and a player today is downright scary. Forty years from now place kickers will resemble that freakishly ripped guy you see sometimes on the side of ESPN.com pages. You know? The guy with a forty-eight pack? That makes the need for steroids a constant thought.
It will serve the NFL and all of us greatly if we work to publicize the drugs causing players to fail these tests. Allowing them to hide behind Adderall will continue to perpetuate widespread PED use in professional sports, and will never assist in solving the greater problem. More awareness, more education, and a higher taboo stigma for violators are all things that could work to alleviate this issue, even in a small way. You break the rules, you ought to pay the price. We all want a clean NFL. It’s safer, more competitive, and above all else, fair.
So don’t worry, Richard Sherman, the truth will undoubtedly come to light. For your sake, I hope you have your prescription papers handy.