DeAndre Hopkins back from ban, but NFL’s drug issues never left


Arizona Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins gave a cryptic response this week when asked to explain how he tested positive last year for a strange, steroid-like drug called ostarine.

“It’ll come out after the year,” Hopkins said Tuesday.

He previously said he didn’t know how he could have ingested the substance, which triggered a six-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

After serving his punishment, he finally will return to action Thursday night against New Orleans.

But a larger problem persists even if Hopkins isn’t revealing more about it yet, and the NFL won’t talk about it at all. Ostarine is classified as an anabolic agent, which is a broad, potent class of performance-enhancing substances that includes steroids, human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO).

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Since October 2020, at least 31 players have been suspended after violating the league’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs, according to a USA TODAY Sports database of more than 265 such suspensions since 2001. Of those 31, 20 were six-game suspensions, indicating they were triggered by positive tests for anabolic agents, the most serious kind of drugs banned under the policy.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins returns to the Cardinals tonight.

The NFL does not announce which drugs were involved in these suspensions, unlike Major League Baseball. Neither does the NFL Players Association. It’s up to the player to reveal it, which they don’t often do as Hopkins did earlier this year by saying it involved a trace amount of ostarine.

The league instead left a clue in the new policy that started in 2020 under the new collective bargaining agreement between the players and league management: “Positive Test Result for Anabolic Agent — six regular and/or postseason games,” the policy states for first-time positive tests of prohibited substances.

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