NEW YORK >> The NFL said Wednesday that its new performance-enhancing drug policy will allow the Broncos’ Wes Welker and two other suspended players to return to the field this week.
The deal with the players association also adds human growth hormone testing, ending several years of wrangling between the league and the union.
Welker, Dallas Cowboys defensive back Orlando Scandrick and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey had been suspended for four games.
Under the new rules, players who test positive for banned stimulants in the offseason will no longer be suspended. Instead, they will be referred to the substance abuse program.
The league and union are also nearing an agreement on changes to the substance abuse policy. That could reduce Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s season-long ban.
Testing for HGH was originally agreed upon in 2011, but the players had balked at the science in the testing and the appeals process for positive tests. Under the new deal, appeals of positive tests in the PED program will be heard by third-party arbitrators jointly selected by the NFL and union. Appeals will be processed more expeditiously under altered procedures
Testing should begin by the end of the month.
The new rules also change the length of suspensions. Previously, all first-time violations of the performance-enhancing drug policy resulted in at least a four-game suspension.
Now, use of a diuretic or masking agent will result in a two-game suspension. The punishment for steroids, in-season use of stimulants, HGH or other banned substances is four games. Evidence of an attempt to manipulate a test is a six-game suspension.
A second violation will result in a 10-game ban, up from a minimum of eight games. A third violation is at least a two-year suspension. Before, the ban was at least a year.