Aaron Hernandez 'Chain-Smoked' Pot, Never Failed an NFL Drug Test

By McCarton Ackerman 04/08/15

Turns out it's surprisingly easy to cheat NFL drug testing.

Aaron Hernandez
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It’s still unclear whether former NFL star Aaron Hernandez will manage to dodge the murder charges against him, but one thing that is certain is that he smoked a lot of pot during his playing days.

This revelation has put a spotlight on the league’s drug policy and raised questions over how someone who prosecution witness Alexander Bradley called a marijuana “chain smoker” never failed a drug test.

Although the league does officially ban marijuana use, NFL players are only tested for recreational drugs once per year. The test also comes during a specified period of time; for 2015, the window for testing begins on April 20 and ends early in the preseason.

However, most players are tested during training camp because it’s cheaper to conduct tests when all the athletes are in one place. All an athlete has to do is refrain from smoking for about a month beforehand and, once they pass, they’re essentially free to do whatever they want for the next 11 months.

“It’s pretty amazing a guy who smokes that much never failed a drug test or got himself into the drug program. [But] everyone in the league smokes it all the time,” said Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “As long as you’re not in the drug program, and as long as you don’t fail an initial test, you can pretty much smoke it as much as you want.”

Even for those who do get caught smoking pot, it’s easy to get back into the league’s good graces. A positive test results in being entered in Stage 1 of the NFL’s drug program, which means increased testing for 90 days. As long as the player passes all tests, they will be released from the program after three months. If they test positive again after the three-month period, they go back into Stage 1.

Last September, the NFL unveiled a revised drug policy that increased the threshold for a positive marijuana test, from 15 nanograms per milliliter of urine to 35 ng/ml. Some players had complained the threshold was so low that a positive test could occur from simply being in the vicinity of marijuana smoke.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.