Pat & Kevin Williams (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
Hennepin County District Court Judge Gary Larson will hand down his ruling in the StarCaps case involving Pat and Kevin Williams. Either way, it will be a significant ruling regarding pro sports’ ability to impose drug-testing laws in individual states, even if it is appealed.
The long-awaited decision in the StarCaps case that holds the short-term futures of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams in the balance is coming.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Gary Larson announced Wednesday that, after 18 months of legal challenges and cases in both the state and federal court system, he will render his verdict today.
At question isn’t whether the players took the banned substance bumetanide – both admit using the supplement StarCaps, which contained the banned substance despite not appearing on the package label. Bumetanide has been determined to be a substance that athletes have used to mask the presence of steroids in a player’s system. The NFL hasn’t accused either player of using steroids, but taking a diuretic to drop weight before the start of training camp has been frowned upon by not only the league, but the Vikings organization as well.
The case has been part of the court process since November 2008 when the positive tests were announced. The attorneys for the Williamses included a pair of appeals that the NFL policy violated two different statutes regarding drugs in the workplace under Minnesota law. The federal case was thrown out, as the judge in that case sided with the NFL, but remanded the two state claims back to a Minnesota courtroom, where Larson has become the point-man judge in legal claims involving the NFL.
If Larson sides with the NFL in its position that it has the right to hand down punitive action to its players, the Williamses would likely be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season. The suspension would actually last five weeks, since the Vikings got stuck with a bye week in Week 4 – the first of seven bye weeks during the season. The first four games feature two nationally televised games – at the defending champion Saints on Thursday, Sept. 9 and at the New York Jets Monday, Oct. 11. The other two games they would potentially miss would be home games against Miami and Detroit.
If Larson sides with the Williamses, we may not see the end of the case just yet. The ruling would put drug testing procedures for all major sports into jeopardy, since all four of the major sports include franchises in many different states as well as Canada. If Larson rules against the NFL, the case may end up at the Supreme Court. However, as we reported earlier the week, California Rep. Henry Waxman is said to be preparing a bill in the U.S. Congress that would allow for the standardization of drug-testing policies for companies that operate in multiple states.
It has been 19 months since the NFL first announced that Kevin and Pat Williams were facing a four-game suspension from the league. We will find out today where the hammer falls.
The Vikings stadium bill in the Minnesota State Legislature suffered a significant setback – if not a death knell for this session -- Wednesday, as the bill was voted down 10-9 in the House State and Local Government Committee and was revamped in a Senate committee before being passed. The defeat was credited to Gov. Tim Pawlenty insistence that no new taxes be generated by the bill. The revised house bill would require the Vikings to provide money up and for the Met Council to bond for the money. A portion of the existing Minneapolis Convention Center tax would be used to pay off the debt once the center’s debt is officially retired in 2020. The Senate bill increased a portion of the funding by raising additional money by requiring permanent seat licenses, a tactic used by other states, cities and counties to raise money for a stadium project. It appears dim that, given the budget shortfall and the 11th-hour nature of the introduction of the bill, that the bill will pass during this session.
We had another precinct heard from in the Brett Favre debate – rookie RB Toby Gerhart. Appearing on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday, the Vikings rookie was asked if he thinks Favre will return in 2010. “I hope so,” Gerhart said. “I think so. It’s a great team and they have a great chance of winning the Super Bowl, so I think he’ll come back for another year.”
The NFL reached an agreement with Anheuser-Busch Wednesday for the corporate beer sponsorship that will pay the league $1.2 billion over the next six years. The $200 million annual fee is double that amount that Coors had paid for the last contract as the official beer sponsor of the NFL.
Favre is the only Viking in the top 20 jersey sales since the draft. Denver rookie Tim Tebow still leads, followed by Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Romo, Ndamukong Suh, Sam Bradford, Troy Polamalu, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Kolb, Eli Manning, Reggie Bush, DeSean Jackson, Tom Brady, Miles Austin, Eric Berry, Aaron Rodgers and Jeremy Shockey.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.