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Other leagues back NFL in Williamses case

Associated Press / July 30, 2009

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A federal appeals court in Minneapolis allowed other major sports to weigh in yesterday on the NFL’s attempts to suspend two Minnesota Vikings for violating the league’s anti-doping policy.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals accepted a joint brief from Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL, as well as a similar brief from the US Anti-Doping Agency, which administers drug testing for US Olympic teams.

The teams asked the appeals court to rule that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement trumps the state laws that defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are using to fight their four-game suspensions. They wrote it would be impossible otherwise to enforce uniform standards for eliminating performance-enhancing drugs from sports.

The NFL seeks to discipline the players because they tested positive last summer for the diuretic bumetanide, which is banned from sports because it can mask the presence of steroids. It was an unlisted ingredient in the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which they acknowledge taking. Court proceedings in the complex web of cases involving StarCaps have established that the NFL knew the supplement contained the banned substance but never shared that information with players.

The Williamses, who are not related, are not accused of using steroids, but the NFL says players are responsible for knowing what they’re taking.

The league wants to impose the suspensions at the start of the regular season, and the 8th Circuit scheduled oral arguments for Aug. 18 in St. Paul to put itself in a position to rule by then.

Burress testifies
Former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress says he told the truth before a Manhattan grand jury that’s investigating a weapon charge against him. He also told reporters outside the courthouse where he testified that he is truly remorseful for what he has done.

Burress’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said his client decided on his own to testify.

The 31-year-old Burress shot himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub in November.

He was charged with weapon possession and faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $100,000 bail. The Giants released Burress in April.

New deal for Miller
Steelers tight end Heath Miller agreed to a six-year contract that runs through the 2014 season. Miller, one of the top blocking tight ends, had one season remaining on the five-year contract he signed after being Pittsburgh’s first-round draft pick in 2005 . . . Defensive tackle Hollis Thomas joined the Rams after being released by the Saints in April. The 35-year-old free agent is a 13-year veteran who spent 10 seasons with the Eagles . . . With camps opening around the league, draft-pick signings are on the rise. The Bills brought first-rounder Eric Wood (offensive lineman, Louisville) and second-rounder Jairus Byrd (safety, Oregon) into the fold. The Ravens reached a five-year deal with Michael Oher (offensive tackle, Mississippi). The Bengals inked second-round choice Rey Maualuga (linebacker, Southern Cal). Second-rounder Phil Loadholt (offensive line, Oklahoma) came to terms with the Vikings. The Rams and second-rounder James Laurinaitis (linebacker, Ohio State) reached an agreement.

Back to Square 1
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he’s “more than content with’’ a competition between quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels for the job the team tried so hard to give to Brett Favre. “He’s gone his way, and we’ve gone our way,’’ Childress said, after discussing the matter with Jackson and Rosenfels. In an interview posted on Sports Illustrated’s website, Favre added another twist to this open-ended story: “I truly, truly believe it’s over. But if someone calls Nov. 1, who knows?’’ . . . Former Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith was placed on 12 months probation and ordered to serve 50 hours of community service after pleading no contest to DUI, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia charges stemming from an Aug. 28, 2008, arrest, when he attempted to drive around a DUI checkpoint in Jacksonville, Fla. . . . 49ers cornerback Walt Harris was placed on injured reserve, two months after surgery on his right knee . . . Disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin reported to the Cardinals’ training camp. Upset because he has yet to get a new contract, Boldin sat out minicamp with what he said was a sore hamstring, then did not participate in the voluntary summer workouts.

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