On December 28, the week prior to the Raiders' final game of the season, the word came down that Raiders fullback Marcel Reece was to be suspended four games for violating the league's policy on Performance Enhancing Drugs. Then, not a week later, with no fanfare, Reece's suspension was officially lifted by the Commissioner... sort of.
Reece's suspension was to be served by him sitting out the final game of the 2015 regular season and the first three games of next season. In addition, he lost his spot on the Pro Bowl roster. Unfortunately, this transaction does nothing to change those facts.
This lifted suspension following the season is procedural. It is automatic. What it means is Reece will be allowed at the team facility in the offseason with his teammates. That means participation in all off season workouts, organized team activities, training camp, and preseason games. The suspension will go back into effect at the start of next season.
For Reece's part, he is not at all happy with how the NFL's PED policy is carried out with regard to his particular situation.
The seven-year Pro and three-time Pro Bowler (four-time Pro Bowler until the suspension) explained his predicament to Pro Football Talk the day after his suspension became official.
"I have NEVER, and would NEVER, ingest any banned substance that would result in a failed drug test. What I did consume was a natural plant root extract by the name of ‘Umcka,' which is a completely safe substance that is clearly legal by NFL policy, in terms of being acceptable to consume. What I didn't know is that this plant root, once ingested in the human body, converts to the substance ‘metylhexanamine,' which is a banned substance by NFL standards."
"As the NFL stated in their final judgment of our appeal: ‘The NFL does not contend that Mr. Reece intentionally violated the policy, and it is clear the Mr. Reece did not intend to do so. . . .'
"Let me be clear here -- the Arbitrator, the NFL and I all agree, and have concluded, that I have never ingested ANY banned substance whatsoever, for any reason, especially not to enhance my performance. Unfortunately, due to the NFL's strict liability policy and a completely flawed system there is nothing I can do to change this unfair outcome.
"I have fought this decision as hard and aggressively as the system allows to chemically prove how this happened, and to defend my innocence. I assure you all that this natural, chemical reaction was far beyond my knowledge prior to appeal research."
So, there you have it. He will still miss four regular season games (one in 2015, three to begin 2016), and was stripped of his Pro Bowl status for the 2015 season. This despite his explanation and the NFL stating they believe that it was unintentional. The result is real consequences, whether intended or not, and does beg the question as to whether the policy should be revisited and perhaps altered for such occurrences.