James Harrison, a linebacker with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, may be our favorite American football player. He doesn’t seem to like all of the invasive steroid testing that is forced upon him as an NFL player. At least we know he likes to give doping control officers a hard time when they show up unannounced at his door. He even got the last one fired from his job.
In the early morning of February 17, 2016, Harrison decided to use his smartphone to record the process of a urine sample collection. In a safe-for-work video posted on Instagram, Harrison described how he was required to drop his shorts to his ankles and urinate into a cup while the doping control officer (DCO) stood in front of him to watch.
The unnamed DCO who appeared in the video was subsequently fired by his employer – The National Center for Drug Free Sport, Inc. (“Drug Free Sport”). Drug Free Sport is the independent administrator of the PED testing program for the National Football League (NFL) as well as several other major professional sporting leagues such as Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
So when Drug Free Sport sent another DCO to collect his urine on May 18, 2016, Harrison once again wanted to use his smartphone to record the process. This time, the DCO refused to allow him to record it. Harrison insisted that “everything gets recorded here”. The DCO called Ryan Willis, the Director of NFL PED Drug Testing, for clarification on how to proceed.
Willis told Harrison that if he refused to put his smartphone away and stop recording, then the DCO would not be able to complete the urine sample collection. If this happened, Drug Free Sport would essentially treat it as a “positive” test result that could lead to a suspension under the NFL’s Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances.
Harrison wasn’t happy with that response so he called DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) for further guidance. Smith referred Harrison to an NFLPA doping policy attorney.
Ultimately, Brian McCarthy, the Vice President of Communications, confirmed that the NFL steroid policy prohibits the video and photographs of the anti-doping sample collection.
“Both the league and NFLPA recognize that the collection protocols and procedures are designed to ensure the accuracy and identification of the specimens to be tested,” McCarthy said. “To maintain the integrity of the protocols and protect against the possibility of manipulation of the process at the time or during future tests, the policy prohibits devices and other objects in the collection area or taking photographs or video of specific collections.”
Harrison didn’t agree with the NFL’s ruling on the matter. Harrison claimed he never had a problem with the drug testing itself. He simply wanted to give football fans some behind-the-scenes footage of what goes on during the NFL drug testing procedure. He compared his Instagram videos of the testing procedure as comparable to the recording of behind-the-scenes video for the reality sports documentary television series “Hard Knocks”.
“To clarify – I never have a problem being tested. I wasn’t videoing the test because I was suspicious of the process. I was only videoing leading up to the actual test to post it on [Instagram] for what I think is interesting behind the scenes content for the fans, which I had done when I was tested earlier this year, with no notice of wrongdoing. If the league can invade our space and interrupt our preseason training with shows like Hard Knocks because it’s interesting behind the scenes content for the fans, why can’t I post this?”
At the end of the day, Harrison agreed to stop recording and pee in the cup. The results of the PED testing are currently pending.