Imagine an NFL where your favorite players never get tired, never took a play off, and shake off bone-crushing hits like sneezes. Now, tuck that some place far away, preferably next to your Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelet, because that version of the NFL is one souped up on Adderall, and "half the league" will never get away with playing under the influence of the little blue pills, no matter what Seattle Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman says.
Sherman, who had initially tested positive for the substance in late November but fought the results of a league drug test and was not suspended for it, told the Vancouver Sun Tuesday that so many of his fellow players were using the psycho-stimulant that the NFL should go ahead and take away its Adderall ban:
About half the league takes it (Adderall) and the league has to allow it. The league made a mistake in my case. Obviously, I didn't do anything, but you have to go through a process to prove you didn't do anything. There are still naysayers out there who don’t believe me. But I accept it. If everybody loves you, it probably means you’re not much of a player.
Let's add that up for Sherman: There are 32 NFL teams, with 53 man rosters; that's 1696 players. Carry the one ... and—presto!—according to the fuzzy math of the best cornerback in pro football, there are 848 Adderall enhanced players in the NFL right now. In addition to the approximately 18 million annual prescriptions of a drug known for helping thousands of high school and college kids cram in school, Adderall can make football players play better. "It increases alertness, aggressiveness, attention and concentration. It improves reaction time, especially when fatigued. Some think it enhances hand-eye coordination. Some believe it increases the mental aspects of performance," Dr. Gary Wadler, former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List Committee, told The Seattle Times in November, adding that Adderall "masks fatigue, masks pain, increases arousal — like being in The Zone."
Now, you can sort of see why the NFL wouldn't be happy with a claim like the one Sherman made this week. For starters, look at Mark Sanchez. Okay, we kid. We kid. But the league officially rebutted the claim Wednesday, stating that there's no way Adderall could be that rampant because league testing is just too rigorous. An NFL spokesman said in a statement:
The comments are ill-informed and inaccurate. Adderall is easily detected under current testing and will result in a suspension absent an approved therapeutic use exemption.
If his statement were true, we would be seeing many more positive tests and suspensions.
Perhaps Sherman's own positive test proves this, but if the NFL os going to err, it's going to err on the side of positive tests rather than letting players beat the system. Or we'd at least see a lot more players who were suspended disclose their Adderall prescriptions — the drug is permitted as long as there is paperwork filed by players' doctors. (Yahoo's Brian McIntyre has a good rundown of Adderall linked suspensions.) That sentiment of having doctor-approval was echoed by the NFL in its statement:
More importantly, his [Shepard's] comments are irresponsible, as they ignore the serious medical risks and documented public health crisis associated with the improper use of Adderall and similar drugs.