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Panthers’ Eric Reid: Random NFL drug tests don’t feel random

Active NFL players are subject to random drug screenings throughout the calendar year, but Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid said he’s been tested repeatedly since arriving in Charlotte.

He also says it’s not a coincidence.

Since signing with the Panthers on Sept. 27, Reid said he’s been drug tested six times — once as part of his pre-employment screening and five times as part of the NFL’s and NFL Players Association’s Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. Reid, currently involved in a collusion lawsuit against the NFL, received his latest notice of a random test after the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.


Since his first game with the Panthers against the New York Giants on Oct. 7, Panthers safety Eric Reid says he’s been randomly tested for PEDs five times.

David T. Foster III

“I’ve been here seven, eight weeks. I’ve been drug tested six times,” Reid said after Sunday’s game. “It’s supposedly random but I know what I’m fighting against, I know who I’m fighting against. It’s tactics that they’re using for the collusion suit.”

According to the NFL’s Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances, the policy is directed by an independent administrator — Dr. John Lombardo of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Dr. Lombardo, jointly appointed and paid by the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA, has the “sole discretion” to determine which players are tested, how often they’re tested and the method by which they’re tested.

The NFL’s Policy and Program on Substance Abuse states players are subject to pre-employment and pre-season testing for illegal drugs. Players who have tested positive and are in the league’s Intervention Program are also subject to testing at the NFL and NFLPA-appointed medical advisor’s discretion. However, it also states a player can enter into “Testing by Agreement” with their team throughout his contract if the team has “reasonable basis for requesting testing.”

Reid’s random selections suggest he is being tested under the Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. That program allows Dr. Lombardo to use a computer program each week to randomly select 10 players from each NFL team’s active roster, practice squad and reserve list for testing. The players selected must not already be “subject to ongoing reasonable cause testing for performance-enhancing substances,” per the policy.

The NFL did not comment on how many, if any, Panthers are subject to reasonable cause testing, so considering the team has 72 total players on its roster, each player has a 13.9 percent chance at being randomly selected for PED screening in any given week.

But Reid says he has been randomly selected five times during his eight-week tenure with Carolina. According to Peter Bartlett, a professor at UC-Berkeley’s Division of Computer Science and the Department of Statistics, the likelihood of a player being randomly selected at least five times in an eight-week span is roughly two-tenths of one percent, or 1 in 500.

Bartlett said it’s about the same odds of dealing five playing cards out of a shuffled deck and having them all be the same suit.

Stephen Davis, a professor in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Davidson College, said the likelihood of Reid being selected exactly five times in eight weeks are roughly eighteen hundredths of one percent.

Reid said he’ll speak to his lawyers but imagines the frequency of his drug screenings will be included in his collusion suit. Twitter users emphatically reacted to the word of Reid’s latest drug screening, with some calling the NFL corrupt and others expressing faith in the random testing system and belief that Reid shouldn’t be bothered by frequent testing if he doesn’t have anything to hide.

While the NFL itself doesn’t administer the tests, Reid said there’s more to the story than what’s available to the public. He confrimed to the Observer that he has not tested positive for any banned substance, is not in the reasonable cause program and has not entered a testing agreement with the Panthers.

“I don’t have anything to hide. Secondly, this is supposed to be a random system. It doesn’t feel very random,” he said. “Plus, I’m privy to information that’s in my lawsuit that’s not free to the public. So I know who I’m going against and it’s not surprising in the least.”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Reid compared the repeated tests to New York City’s infamous “stop-and-frisk” program.

“It’s kind of like stop-and-frisk,” he said, “where it’s like I know I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’m not concerned that I’ll fail that (drug) test. But the system’s lying, much like what I’m protesting … I’m not losing any sleep over it but it should be talked about. Just like stop-and-frisk, it’s wrong.”

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy confirmed to the Observer via email that players could be subject to a maximum of 24 PED tests per year.

The Observer asked NFLPA Director of Communications Carl Francis said the organization is not in a position to comment on the matter, but confirmed Wednesday night that the NFLPA is reviewing the situation.

Dr. Lombardo deferred to McCarthy for any comment.

Reid, a Pro Bowler as a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, has played on par with his Pro Bowl season so far in 2018. Stretched across a 16-game season, he’d set career highs in combined tackles and tackles for a loss.


Eric Reid, right, became one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL in 2016, when he kneeled alongside Colin Kaepernick, center, in protest of police brutality and systemic oppression toward minorities in America.

Nhat V. Meyer TNS

He established himself as one of the NFL’s most polarizing figures when he became the first player to kneel alongside then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in protest against police brutality and systemic oppression toward minorities.

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