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Pending Alexander PED suspension highlights flaws in policy

PHILADELPHIA – From feel good to feels really dirty.

At some point the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to lose rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, according to multiple media reports.

The mechanics of how we got to this point continue to be an issue.

Alexander has had a very good rookie campaign, especially for a fourth-round pick, but he arrived on the national scene for overcoming a personal tragedy, being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons back on Nov. 1 just two days after his younger brother was shot and killed in their hometown of Anniston, Ala.

“It has been hard losing my little brother,” Alexander said at the time. “But I know that he would want me to be strong for him, so I came out here and dedicated this game to him.”

That brought a tear to the eye of many and really still should but everything Alexander has accomplished so far in the NFL is now stained by the fact that he tested positive for PEDs back in training camp.

The Bucs are expecting a letter from the league office Monday informing them of the suspension and everyone needs to understand there has to be due process in all of these situations.

The league doesn’t have the power to mandate and immediate implement punishment because the NFLPA is obligated to fight for the rights of their members, be they guilty or not, and has helped collectively bargain a policy that takes far too long and fails to accomplish what it’s designed to do.

After all, the whole overblown scourge of PEDs is based on the fact that the drugs create a competitive imbalance.

Logic, however, says so does the testing procedures.

Think about it, everyone in the NFL world now knows Alexander is about to get popped for PEDs for something that happened back in August yet he’s already played nine games and was in the middle of the Tampa Bay defense as usual on Sunday in Philadelphia.

He’ll also continue to play through the appeals process if he so desires.

Is that not affecting the competitive balance of the sport?

The Falcons are in the middle of a playoff push and were victimized by the guy and the Eagles are still in the thick of the moribund NFC East race yet had to deal with an emerging player rather than say the under whelming Bruce Carter.

Isn’t that tipping the scales toward Tampa Bay?

On the other hand if the Bucs are able to make a run at the last wild-card spot and lose Alexander late in the season, wouldn’t they have rather sat the LSU product down for the first four games instead of the last four?

The NFL’s policy on PEDs is every bit the performance changer as the PEDs Alexander is alleged to have been using.

The holes of the process, namely transparency and the fact the testing evidently moves at glacial speeds, are readily apparent.

But affecting competition is in the eye of the narrow-minded beholder. PEDs bad … removing or allowing “cheaters” to play in certain games is accepted without critical thinking.

The only way the NFL can change that reality is to make the time frame for both PED and substance-abuse testing consistent in every case. The confirmation of the first failed test needs to be completed in a standard amount of time as does the appeal process.

Detractors could still point to the level of player being tested and the timing of it but the random aspect of any drug-testing procedure is necessary because the people using tend to be ahead of the game when it comes to masking techniques.

The perfect testing policy is one that doesn’t exist because the only way to accomplish a true, level playing field is freedom for all of those involved.

And that’s way too liberal for a general public that practices selective outage when it comes to PEDs.

— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.

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