NFL's Goodell to testify on Vikings suspensions

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions
Kevin Williams #93 and Pat Williams #94 of the Minnesota Vikings.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is returning to Capitol Hill next week, this time to testify about the case of two professional football players whose suspensions for violating the league's anti-doping policy were blocked by the courts.

Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL players union, are among the witnesses scheduled before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee next Tuesday, according to a witness list obtained by The Associated Press Friday.

The NFL had attempted to suspend Minnesota Vikings Pat Williams and Kevin Williams for four games, but the players sued the league in state court, arguing the NFL's testing violated Minnesota workplace laws. The two players are not related.

The case was moved to federal court, and the NFL players union filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of the Williamses and New Orleans Saints players who were also suspended.

In May, a federal judge dismissed the union's lawsuit and several claims in the Williamses' case - then sent two claims involving Minnesota workplace laws back to state court.

A judge there had issued an injunction prohibiting the NFL from suspending the players, and has scheduled the trial in their lawsuit for March 8.

A federal appeals court panel last month agreed with those decisions, essentially allowing the Williamses to continue playing while the case proceeds in state court.

The NFL has asked the full federal appeals court to hear the case, arguing that federal labor law should pre-empt state law, and that uniform standards are necessary for players nationwide.

The Vikings players tested positive in 2008 for the diuretic bumetanide, which is banned by the NFL because it can mask the presence of steroids.

The players acknowledged taking the over-the-counter weight loss supplement StarCaps, which did not state on the label that it contained bumetanide. Neither player is accused of taking steroids.

The court ruling led the NFL to allow New Orleans defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith, who had also been issued four-game suspensions, to continue playing. Both players tested positive after using StarCaps.

Next week's hearing is titled, "The NFL StarCaps Case: Are Sports' Anti-Doping Programs At A Legal Crossroads?"

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is concerned that the legal issues raised in the case "could result in weaker performance-enhancing drugs policies for professional sports," the committee said in a statement issued earlier this month.

Other witnesses include Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's executive vice president for labor relations; Michael Weiner, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association; and Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Both Goodell and Smith testified before the House Judiciary Committee this week on head injuries among NFL players.

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