Steelers safety stirs the pot about NFL drug use

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Ryan Clark says NFL players smoke marijuana, including some of his Steelers teammates, and that it’s easy for NFL players to pass the league’s tests for the banned drug.

“I know guys on my team who smoke,” Clark said Thursday on ESPN’s “First Take.” “And it’s not a situation where you think, ‘Oh, these are guys trying to be cool.’ These are guys who want to do it recreationally.

“A lot of it is stress relief. A lot of it is pain and medication. Guys feel like, ‘If I can do this, it keeps me away from maybe Vicodin, it keeps me away from pain prescription drugs and things that guys get addicted to.’ Guys look at this as a more natural way to heal themselves, to stress relieve and also to medicate themselves for pain. Guys are still going to do it.”

Clark did not identify the teammates he said smoke marijuana but implied it is used widely throughout the NFL, even though players risk suspensions if they are caught or test positive for using it. Earlier in the week, New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said the NFL cannot stop players from using it and that its testing procedures are ineffective.

“It’s 100 percent true,” Clark said on ESPN. “They’re fighting a losing battle. The testing isn’t stringent. There is one random test during OTAs and minicamps during the offseason, and everybody will be tested early in training camp. After that, there are no more tests. So guys understand the ways to get around failing a drug test.”

Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten, responding to a request for reaction to Clark’s comments, stated, “We support the NFL’s drug-testing policy and will have no further reaction to Ryan’s comments.”

In October 2008, Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes was arrested in Pittsburgh for possession of marijuana, and the team suspended him for one game. He went on to catch the winning touchdown pass the following February in Super Bowl XLIII and was named the game’s MVP. The Steelers traded him to the New York Jets before the 2010 season.

Clark, 34, is the Steelers’ player representative to the NFL Players Association. He will become an unrestricted free agent in March after spending eight of his 12-year NFL career with the Steelers.

The issue of marijuana use in the NFL heated up because the teams in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle and Denver, come from the two states that recently legalized the drug’s use.

Nevertheless, commissioner Roger Goodell said last Friday in his annual pre-Super Bowl address that the league has no plans to change its stance on the use of marijuana.

“It is still an illegal substance on a national basis,” Goodell said.

“It’s something that is part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players. It is questionable as to the positive impacts, in the face of the very strong evidence of the negative effects, including addictions and other issues.

“We’ll continue to follow the medicine. Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way. We are not actively considering that at this point in time. But if it goes down the road sometime, that’s something that we would never take off the table.”

Ed Bouchette: and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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