Former Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers tested positive for a dilute sample at the NFL scouting combine in March, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Here’s what that means and how it could impact his upcoming professional career.
Peppers did what?
Every draft prospect invited to the combine is asked to take a drug test. Peppers’ urine sample returned with a water content high enough to qualify as “dilute,” as specified in the NFL policy and program on substances of abuse. The policy defines a “dilute” sample as one that has a specific gravity less than 1.003 and a creatinine concentration of less than 20 mg/DL.
What’s wrong with having a dilute sample?
One way to mask the presence of drugs in a urine sample is to dilute it by consuming excessive amounts of water. In other words, a person could attempt to beat a drug test that way. The NFL is sensitive to that and considers a certain level of dilution to be the equivalent of a positive drug test.
Couldn’t dilution be coincidental or unintentional?
It’s possible. Players preparing diligently for combine workouts, in essence for their first job interviews, could overdo it with the water and Gatorade. Sources told Schefter, in fact, that Peppers fell ill on the way to the combine and drank eight to 10 bottles of water to prepare for his running drills. The NFL policy attempts to set a threshold high enough to avoid the possibility of unintentional violations.
Is this the same thing that happened with Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster?
Yes. Foster told NFL.com that he fell ill with what he believed was food poisoning in the days leading up to the combine. He drank excessively to recover and rehydrate from vomiting, cramping and suffering from diarrhea.
Does this put Peppers (and Foster) into the NFL’s drug program?
Yes. Per the policy, both Peppers and Foster will be placed into Stage One of the program. There is no discipline involved and each will be discharged within 180 days if they cooperate with a treatment policy and have no further violations during that period. If they do, however, they would advance to Stage Two. Violations while a part of Stage Two lead either to a fine equivalent to four weeks’ pay or a four-game suspension, depending on the circumstances.
Do teams really care about a dilute sample?
Yes. Multiple violations of the drug policy, no matter the cause, take players off the field. At the very least, teams will need to look closer at those prospects to determine whether the combine test was an anomaly or if a potential problem exists. If nothing else, some teams also will question whether the player was simply too brazen to limit drug use, or be careful enough in hydration to avoid a dilute result.