This was a comment in the post discussing Travis Henry's appeal hearing. It was so good I felt it deserved it's own post. Thanks, HT! -- TSG
I have always been a hard nose on discipline when it comes to athletes. I like the new approach of the league, and hope we as a team do a better job screening bad characters. Henry's paternal issues and drug history should have made us more wary. I will support whatever the league and the courts decide in this issue.
But I have some reservations about jumping on this athlete at this time. I thought about doing a more detailed diary, but I'll just put my comments here.
First, I have been saying that there may be more to this case than first thought. I have experience with athletes who abuse drugs (from coaching at the secondary school level). I also have experience in drug testing and forensics from when I served in the army before college. While I have always been quick to judge and believe in zero tolerance, Henry's defense case makes more and more sense to me.
- Henry has passed several lie detector tests. I have been subjected to two lie detector tests and they were very unnerving. I never had any reason to lie or cover anything up, but the experience was frightening anyway. The tests backed me up (both for jobs requiring background investigations), but I agree with what most experts think: that is to say, lie detector tests are valuable indicators of truthfullness, but shouldn't be final determiners of truth (i.e. used in trials). In this case, it seems that Henry's story would seem to ring true.
- Hair follicle samples provide two measurable variables. They give a record of drug use further back than urine testing, and the accuracy is more definitive. Henry's hair sample also indicates that Henry was clean.
- Henry's defense that he was a victim of second hand smoke doesn't do it for me. I agree with Guru and others that any athlete has zero business being in proximity with drug use. Period. However, Henry may have made the statement about second hand smoke because he was afraid of a result he couldn't otherwise explain. Here's what I mean: the newest news items about Henry's case indicate that samples before and after the case showed zero indication of THC levels (a chemical produced when marijuana is in the blood system). This would seem to indicate that the one positive test was a "false positive".
I also want to come to the defense of Coach Shanahan. Coach is privy to more info than the media and us (as fans). The revelation of subsequent negative tests may have been in Coach's mind for awhile now. Coach also has an obligation to defend players if (and only if) he has reason to believe that the player is going to continue with the team for some time and he has strong reason to believe the player.
Given the scope of the impact on the franchise (especialy financialy), it is reasonable to believe that Coach interacted with owner Pat Bowlen, the team's legal department, and Henry's people. I believe Shanahan knew the evidence that Henry would present in advance.
I also believe the league was correct in pursuing the case as they have. For some reason (unknown to me) an NFL player is not allowed to have a representative with him during drug testing if that representative is from a lab associated with drug testing. Henry brought such a representative, and his sample was positive. Regardless of whether the rule is fair, Henry didn't live up to it. For that reason (and the fact that the test was positive, and given Henry's history) the league pursued the matter.
The league (also correctly) waited until Henry's appeal to review the matter. This gives Henry time to prepare his case and the NFL the time to prepare their own. It may well be that (outside of the media debate) today's hearing brought both sides together with all of the facts on the table.
Henry has done everything that most guilty drug users don't do. He offered himself (and followed through) with subsequent testing. He also gave varied samples (urine, hair, polygraph). He also made himself available for appeal. The fact that Coach Shanahan (no doubt after permission from Bowlen) gave such a vigorous defense of Henry furthers my opinion.
Henry is a solid running back. He has been beyond foolish in his personal life, and has acted immoraly. But his commitment to the Bronco's franchise was to steer clear of trouble from the date of his hire onward. Hearing what I am from the media, Henry, and Shanahan I am inclined to believe that Henry did score a false positive on the test in question. I've never made an endorsement for a person making such a claim, but in my mind Henry has done everything an honest man would do, and the results thus far have backed his claim.
If Henry is cleared on Tuesday I hope to see him continue with Denver. His role may be lessened because of Young's great play, but Henry is still the only power runner in our line-up and would be an excellent committee back with Young should he be allowed to continue.