Pubdate: Tue, 17 May 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Ken Belson, New York Times
Page: B8


Opioids for pain relief not safe: Eugene Monroe

Eugene Monroe has had his share of bumps and bruises during his seven-
year NFL career as an offensive tackle with the Jacksonville Jaguars
and t he Baltimore Ravens. He has had shoulder injuries, ankle
sprains, concussions and all the usual wear and tear that comes from
hitting defenders dozens of times a game.

To deal with these injuries, Monroe has stepped forward and called
upon the NFL to stop testing players for marijuana so he and other
players can take the medical version of the drug to treat their
chronic pain and avoid the addictive opioids that teams regularly dispense.

"We now know that these drugs are not as safe as doctors thought,
causing higher rates of addiction, causing death all around our
country," Monroe said in an interview last Friday, "and we have
cannabis, which is far healthier, far less addictive and, quite
frankly, can be better in managing pain."

Retired football players like Kyle Turley and Ricky Williams have
promoted the benefits of marijuana and called for the league to
acknowledge those benefits. Monroe, though, may be one of the first to
openly urge the league to stop testing for the drug, possibly risking
the wrath of owners, league officials and other players.

In a series of posts on Twitter in March, Monroe castigated
commissioner Roger Goodell for refusing to modify the league's stance
on the drug. Monroe also donated US$10,000 to help pay for research on
the benefits of medical marijuana, and he challenged other players to
match his gift.

"It's a shame that Roger Goodell would tell our fans there's no
medical vs. recreational distinction," Monroe wrote.

Last week, Monroe said he had given $80,000 to Realm of Caring, a
Colorado-based advocacy group that is working with the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine to study the impact of medical marijuana
on traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a
degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.

Monroe also started a website about the use of marijuana for pain

Although two dozen states now allow the use of some forms of
marijuana, the NFL has not softened its stance on the drug. Before the
Super Bowl in February, Goodell said the league's medical advisers
continued to look at the research but did not have enough evidence to
warrant a change in the league's position.

"Yes, I agree there have been changes, but not significant enough
changes that our medical personnel have changed their view," Goodell
said. "Until they do, then I don't expect that we will change our view."

Even if the NFL changed its position, any changes to the league's
policy on banned substances would have to be negotiated with the NFL
Players Association. Monroe said that he had met with the
association's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, and that talks were

The Players Association, reached by telephone, declined to comment on
its conversations with Monroe.

According to the league's policy, players are tested for marijuana
between April 20 and Aug. 9, when teams are in training camp. If a
player does not test positive, he is not tested again that year.

Players who test positive the first time are referred to the league's
substance-abuse program. Subsequent violations result in escalating
punishments: a two-game fine, a four-game fine, a four-game
suspension, a 10-game suspension and a one-year banishment. In 2014,
the league raised the threshold for a positive test from 15 ng/ ml to
35 ng/ml.

Despite the more lenient rules, players are still getting caught,
including Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who sat out the
entire 2015 season.

Monroe said players have told him they support his call to soften the
league's stance on marijuana testing, but no current player has
publicly backed him. The Ravens' owner, Steve Bisciotti, tacitly
supported Monroe.

"We're not the ones taking that physical abuse," Bisciotti told "We're not talking about a kid that's been
suspended three times coming out and saying that. I respect Eugene a
lot, and I think all he asked for is more studying on the subject."

Coach John Harbaugh, however, disagreed.

"I promise you, he does not speak for the organization," Harbaugh told
The Baltimore Sun.

Monroe said he was not afraid of any retribution for his stance in
part because he said he did not use marijuana. But from the research
he has done, Monroe said the benefits were strong enough to justify
pushing the league and the union to relax its position, even if it
hurt his standing in the NFL.

"My health is far more important than any possible career
implications," Monroe said. "I want to be there for my family."
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MAP posted-by: Matt