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.
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.