For months now, it has felt like a year-long suspension for Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is an inevitability following his latest violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy, which was announced in May.
Not so fast, perhaps.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that Gordon's appeal, which is set to be heard on Friday, will be focused around inconsistent test results, a positive test result that was barely positive, and dumb luck.
Since Gordon is in Stage 3 of the league's substance-abuse program due to previous violations, he is subject to as many as 10 drug tests per month. For each of those tests, Gordon must provide two urine samples, which are placed in bottles randomly marked "A" and "B." The "A" sample is always tested first, and the "B" sample is only tested to confirm the results if "A" revealed a positive test and to ensure its consistency.
But the basis of Gordon's latest violation isn't quite consistent, and by league standards, only one of the samples tested positive. Unfortunately for Gordon, it was his "A" sample. That sample showed 16 nanograms per milliliter, a mere one nanogram above the NFL's 15 nanograms-per-milliliter threshold for marijuana metabolites. The "B" sample showed 13.63 nanograms per milliliter, which doesn't register as a positive test. However, because Gordon's "B" sample wasn't his "A" sample, thanks to random chance, he is tagged with another violation of the policy and is supposed to miss at least one year as punishment. If the bottles were flipped, Gordon wouldn't be facing another suspension at all.
Gordon's appeal will call into question the results of the positive test seeing as the second test wasn't technically positive. It will also dispute suspending a player for an entire year when basing that suspension off of a test that was only one nanogram per milliliter above the league limit.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gordon's attorneys will argue that the positive test was the result of second-hand smoke and will introduce witnesses who will vouch for Gordon and testify that his sources indicate that he was breathing in second-hand smoke shortly on the day of his test. The NFL does not suspend players for second-hand smoke inhalation. Scientific studies have shown that second-hand smoke exposure can lead to test results similar to Gordon's.
Not mentioned but probably should be: How much impact will Gordon's recent DUI arrest have on his appeal and the odds that the suspension is upheld?
If Gordon's appeal is successful, it would be the biggest story in fantasy football this year and perhaps the most important story about urine in fantasy football history. Gordon would go from being completely ignored in drafts to a likely second-round pick. No matter who is starting at quarterback for the Browns, we already know Gordon can succeed immensely. He did it in 14 games last year with Brian Hoyer , Brandon Weeden, and Jason Campbell.
We should have a decision here in the next few days. Stay tuned.