Pubdate: Wed, 31 May 2006
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Beacon Herald
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


Thirty years ago, American draft dodgers found refuge from the 
Vietnam War in Canada.

Now, here in the 21st century, the Great White North seems to have 
become a haven for disgraced drug offenders from the National Football League,

One could argue that in the case of draft dodgers, we were opening 
our doors to people who could not or would not fight in an unjust and 
ill-conceived war halfway around the world.

It's tougher to justify the current trend of putting out the welcome 
mat for players who have worn out their welcome in the NFL because 
they can't stay off drugs.

This week, the Toronto Argonauts signed Miami Dolphins running back 
Ricky Williams who has been suspended from the NFL for the entire 
2006 season. The most recent failed test, the one that resulted in 
his current suspension -- not his first, by the way -- is for an 
undisclosed substance.

Williams came out of the University of Texas with great expectations 
and he was supposed to be one of the great running backs of our 
generation. In fact, the New Orleans Saints traded all their picks in 
1999 and their first and third round picks in 2000 to get the U.S. 
college star. But he was a bust and ended up in Miami as a Dolphin 
where he failed four drug tests, the first three for marijuana use.

The signing of Williams has garnered the most attention, but it is 
important to know that he is certainly not the first disgraced and 
suspended NFL player to find a job in the CFL. In fact, earlier this 
month, Minnesota Viking Onterrio Smith was suspended by the NFL and 
found employment with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

And the Argonauts have two other former NFL first-round draft choices 
who have been barred from that league for violating its 
substance-abuse policy too many times: receiver R. Jay Soward and 
defensive end Bernard Williams. The Argonauts also have receiver 
Robert Baker, who spent 10 months in prison for distributing and 
trafficking cocaine.

Reports after the Argos signed Williams said his acquisition will put 
the number of currently suspended NFL players in the CFL at nine for 
the upcoming season. CFL teams have taken chances in recent years on 
troubled players like running back Lawrence Phillips and quarterback 
Todd Marinovich.

Another U.S. college great who came to Canada to play football for 
the Argonauts says enough is enough. Joe Theismann came to Toronto 
from the University of Notre Dame and was a CFL player before going 
on to have a great career in the NFL. He has always had a certain 
affinity for the Argos and the CFL and this week he let loose about 
the signing of Williams.

He said the signing was a "disgrace to the game" and added he is 
"embarrassed now to be a Toronto Argonaut."

And Theismann didn't stop there, blasting the organization.

"This is a feeble excuse for the Toronto Argonauts to sell tickets."

Argos coach Pinball Clemons defended the organization.

"Someone much smarter than I, a former president (Roosevelt), 
suggested it's not the critic that counts," Clemons said. "It's not 
the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or how to do their 
deeds, (how they) could have done them better. The man who counts is 
the man who is in the arena. Right now, we are in the arena and I 
think we are doing a great job."

And that's the situation in a nutshell. If the Argos and the CFL are 
trying to provide a place to play for someone who is aimed at turning 
their life and career around, it is admirable.

But if it is merely a move to improve the chances of your football 
team and sell tickets while turning a blind eye to the previous 
indiscretions of the player, it is far less honourable.

Given that there are now three players suspended by the NFL on the 
Argos alone and possibly as many as nine in the league, the latter is 
more likely the case.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman