GETTING TESTY OVER TESTS
This is an article from the Jan. 6, 1986 issue
Eight NFL clubs—Buffalo, Green Bay, Detroit, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Indianapolis and the Jets—have asked their players to submit to postseason drug tests. Most of the players have resisted, and some teams have meted out $1,000 fines. The owners claim that postseason testing is permitted under the existing collective bargaining agreement, which provides for mandatory preseason drug tests and specifies that "if either the club or the player requests a postseason physical examination, the club will provide such an examination and player will cooperate in such examination."
Does that last provision encompass drug testing? Dick Berthelsen, the NFL Players Association counsel, says no: There was never any "contention by management that [the postseason exam] would be a chance to test for drugs." Says St. Louis player rep Joe Bostic, who was among those fined for refusing to be tested, "The understanding was that the postseason physical would be nothing more than a routine orthopedic exam."
Jack Donlan, executive director of the management council, disagrees. "There's nothing limiting the club from doing these things," he says. "It's the same philosophy if a player has a dependency problem as if he had an orthopedic problem." As for the fines being levied, Donlan says, "We suggested they fine players who refuse. Discipline them."
Last week the NFLPA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Berthelsen says the union's stance is "a positive showing of solidarity on the part of the players. They are serious about their rights, and management better listen." As Berthelsen implies, testing will be a hotly debated topic as labor and management negotiators try to forge a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires after next season. One would hope any drug-testing clause they come up with is less ambiguous than the one they're now invoking.
The New England Patriots' fans have a long and sorrowful history of drunkenness and violence at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (SCORECARD, Oct. 13, 1980 et seq.). Facing that fact—and the unhappiness of Foxboro's town fathers about rowdiness at games—the Pats' management announced before the '84 season that only low-alcohol beer would be available at the concession stands. Violence at games diminished noticeably after that, but during the season-ending 34-23 win over Cincinnati two weeks ago, regular beer as well as the low-alcohol brew again flowed from the stadium's taps, and trouble returned with it. Eighty fans were arrested, and many others were ejected from the stadium; the Pats had been averaging fewer than a dozen arrests during home games this season. The worst incident occurred after the game when a mob of fans tore down a metal goalpost and carried a section of it out of the stadium. The section came in contact with a high-power line, and five men holding the post were hospitalized with serious burns. Four of them admitted to police that they had been drinking before and during the game.
Patrick Sullivan, the Patriots' G.M., said the regular beer could be returned if unused but the low-alcohol brew could not, and "the concessions man was more worried about the bottom line." In a promise that must sound all too familiar to the people of Foxboro, he said it wouldn't happen again.
A SUPREME EFFORT TO STAY FIT
According to The Wall Street Journal, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sometimes dons a LOOSEN UP WITH THE SUPREMES T shirt for her exercise class.
BEHIND THE EIGHT BALL
It sounds like something out of one of Jackie Gleason's old Honeymooners routines: A bearish figure is hanging out at the pool hall with his pals, a ruckus starts and—bang! zoom!—our hero is on the street wondering how he gets into these messes. In this case, though, the bear of a fellow is a real bear. Ben, nine months old, is a 200-pound black bear cub. His owner is Bob Prince, who also owns the only saloon in Lahoma, Okla., Bob's Bar and Grill. Ben used to be a regular. "He'd go around and meet people," says Prince. "And he'd lay around underneath the pool table." Ben even played with the balls, although he was no Oklahoma Fats with a cue stick.
Three months ago the Garfield County Health Department got wind of Ben's social habits. They said the only animal allowed in a restaurant was a Seeing Eye dog. "I told them I was teaching him to be a seeing-eye bear," Prince says. The health officials didn't back down, and Ben was booted from the bar.
Prince has since built a pen adjacent to his tavern, and Ben sits out there, pining away for the good old days in the pool hall. "Maybe I can put a pinball machine in the pen for him," says Prince. "That was another thing he loved. He'd rear up on the machine and watch the lights forever."
HE'S A DEEP THINKER
Professor R. Igor Gamow, who teaches chemical engineering at the University of Colorado, makes a startling new claim. He says athletes who train in the rarefied air of high altitude would be better off working out as far underground as the bottom of a mine shaft, where the air pressure and oxygen concentration are greater. The theory is "maximum training occurs only when your performance is maximum. Clearly, performance in endurance events drops at high altitude. It improves at low and hyperlow altitudes. I'm going against current dogma here, but the concept is obvious."
Gamow has built a training bubble that simulates the high barometric pressures experienced 4,000 feet below sea level; he says this "hyperbaric" environment allows an athlete to train at an "absolutely superior" level. Gamow cites a 1971 study of South African gold miners who lived 5,000 feet above sea level but worked 4,000 feet below sea level. The miners' maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max, in the scientific parlance) increased an astonishing 17% between home and work. VO2 max is an accepted training yardstick for distance runners and other endurance athletes.
Gamow has applied for a U.S. Olympic Committee grant to test his concept, which has interested some USOC sports medicine officials. "We're always looking for a competitive edge," says one, Dr. John Troup, director of sports medicine for the U.S. swim team. "The likelihood seems to point to negative rather than positive effects [in moving workouts to lower altitudes], but it's an idea that really hasn't been studied yet. We're hesitant, but willing to listen."
TECHNICALITIES AND IDEALS
To Notre Dame's credit, that school's beleaguered football coach, Gerry Faust, was allowed to serve out his full five-year contract. Dartmouth coach Joe Yukica was accorded no such courtesy when athletic director Ted Leland sought to fire him on Nov. 29. Yukica's contract doesn't expire until after next season, and though the college was willing to pay Yukica the $55,000 promised for next season, he said he wanted all terms of the deal adhered to. Specifically, he wanted to coach. He sued to keep his job.
On Dec. 20, New Hampshire Superior Court Judge Walter Murphy, having heard testimony supporting Yukica from Penn State's Joe Paterno and Boston College's Jack Bicknell, among others, issued a temporary restraining order that allowed Yukica to retain his post. Yukica's contract stipulated that only the Dartmouth College Athletic Council—a 16-member board of alumni, faculty administrators and students—could hire and fire him, and Murphy gave Dartmouth until Feb. 20 to prove that Leland was somehow empowered to can the coach or that the council wanted Yukica gone. Without such proof, Murphy's injunction would stand and Yukica could coach in 1986. The council met for 7½ hours last Saturday but kept its deliberations secret. There were indications that Dartmouth would not press the matter of Yukica's contract further and would simply allow him to coach next fall.
Although Paterno hailed Murphy's decision as "a real landmark for our profession," it appears to be no such thing. The judge's ruling applied only to the terms of Yukica's contract, and at least one observer, John Weistart, law professor at Duke and co-author of the definitive The Law of Sports, suggests that other schools will be as free as ever to buy out the contracts of coaches. "Courts are not going to force two parties into a relationship that one of the two finds offensive, short of cases involving civil rights," Weistart says. "Courts usually determine—and rightly—that a monetary award can make the person whole. There are 200 years of precedent for that." Indeed, when sacked football coach Richard Bell sued the University of South Carolina in 1983 in connection with his severed contract, a jury held that the school had the right to fire its coach for any reason at all, as long as the financial requirements of the contract were met.
There was nothing in Murphy's ruling, in other words, to contradict Leland's argument that his action was "not extraordinary in terms of the way intercollegiate athletics worked. Coaching's a tenuous life-style, and coaches know that." On the other hand, Yukica's victory, even on technical grounds, is an embarrassment for Dartmouth. Yukica says one reason that he sued was because "there's a style and a way things should be handled, and the way I was dealt with was not it." Adds Weistart, "The Ivies are always saying there's a higher plane of morality that people ought to be considering. They are pursuing the more rarefied goals of college athletics. You would think that their high ideals would go over into the area of dealing with coaches."
THEY SAID IT
•Larry Robinson, Montreal Canadiens defenseman, on being named NHL Player of the Week: "Was Wayne Gretzky sick?"
•Dextor Clinkscale, Dallas Cowboys safety, asked if he ever dreamed Dallas could give up 44 and 50 points in two games in the same season: "No, I dream about girls."