As the dust settles on the Patriots’ Super Bowl triumph, many have been left feeling very uneasy.
Julian Edelman’s MVP-winning display has shone a new light on the NFL’s anti-doping rules.
The Patriots wide receiver was named the Super Bowl 53 Most Valuable Player on Sunday after a series of decisive catches during a 13-3 win at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
‘YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE’: Rams star’s bizarre response to Super Bowl loss
But as the Patriots star prepared to leave Atlanta on Monday for a post Super Bowl trip to Disney World, some commentators questioned whether Edelman should even have been allowed on the field.
Edelman, 32, started the season under the cloud of a doping case, serving a four-game suspension for failing a drugs test which remains shrouded in mystery.
Because the NFL is not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the league has its own set of rules for dealing with doping cases.
Whereas an athlete caught doping under the WADA code could face up to a four-year ban for a first violation, Edelman was free to play this season after serving a four-game suspension at the start of the campaign.
Nancy Armour, a columnist for the USA Today national newspaper, contrasted Edelman’s treatment with the exclusion from the sport of Colin Kaepernick for protesting against racial injustice.
“The NFL has some warped priorities,” Armour wrote. “Call attention to racism and discrimination, and your career is effectively over. Test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and you can be the Super Bowl MVP.”
“You can argue that Edelman shouldn’t even have been on the field. That he should have lost his post-season privileges as part of his punishment for trying to game the system. That his third ring is already tarnished.
“That’s the dirty secret of the NFL, though. It doesn’t care about PEDs – at least, not enough to make the punishments tough enough to discourage their use – because the game benefits from them.”
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News said Edelman was a “drug cheat” who didn’t deserve the MVP award.
“To hear some people tell it, you would never know that for all of Edelman’s toughness, he did, in fact, get caught cheating this offseason. He missed the first four games of the regular season after the NFL suspended him for violating the league’s PED policy. So, yes, he cheated even though I don’t remember any discussion of that on the CBS broadcast Sunday night,” Mehta wrote.
“Regardless, he served his punishment, moved on and is now clean (we assume).”
Associated Press sports writer Paul Newberry also found it troublesome.
“Commissioner Roger Goodell – the same guy who said with a straight face five days earlier that Colin Kaepernick’s two-years-and-counting banishment from the league for protesting social injustice was merely a football decision made independently by 32 franchises – was all smiles as he handed Edelman his silver, football-shaped prize known as the Pete Rozelle Trophy,” Newberry wrote.
“Coming off a serious knee injury, there’s no doubt Edelman worked extremely hard to make it back at age 32, when there was plenty of skepticism that he’d ever be as effective as he was before.
“But it’s also worth noting that Edelman gave his rehab an illicit boost by taking a PED, undoubtedly looking to improve the odds of returning to the field on the downside of his career.
“He was rightly lauded for his accomplishments – but let’s not forget that other thing. He cheated.”
Others noted the differences between Major League Baseball and the NFL in how athletes sanctioned for drug offences are dealt with.
Although baseball, like the NFL, is not a signatory to WADA, the league has attempted to crack down on drug use following a series of doping scandals over the past two decades.
A reminder that in baseball, Julian Edelman would not have been eligible to play in this postseason because he served a PED suspension this season.
— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) February 4, 2019
PED users should not be eligible to play in the Super Bowl the same season they are suspended. #superbowl53
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 4, 2019
History made tonight:
-Brady 1st player with 6 Super Bowl rings
-Belichick 1st coach with 6 Super Bowl rings
-Julian Edelman 1st player to win Super Bowl MVP after starting the year suspended for PEDs
— nick wright (@getnickwright) February 4, 2019