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It’s okay to be a Canadian in the Canadian Football League again — unless you are a quarterback.
It’s not okay to take performance-enhancing drugs or masking agents, though marijuana use won’t get you suspended.
It’s okay to root for Ottawa again, keeping in mind that the expansion franchise won’t play a down before 2013.
But it would be dumb to think you’ll get rich in the CFL when the league’s new salary cap is only a bit more than what New York Rangers pest Sean Avery earns in the National Hockey League.
The CFL and its players’ union Tuesday ratified a new, four-year collective-bargaining agreement, which includes in- and out-of-season drug testing; incremental increases to the salary cap to a maximum $4,400,000 in 2013; a $1,000 bump in minimum salaries for each year of the contract; and the closing of a window which allowed players entering their option year to sign with NFL teams.
The CFL also withdrew a proposal which could have resulted in teams reducing the number of Canadian starters from seven to four.
That Canadian-player quotas were even a negotiation point seemed absurd and the backlash from media and fans was considerable.
But the CFL chose not improve the lot of Canadian-born quarterbacks, other than allowing teams to bring them to camp without it counting against their maximum number.
The CFL’s new three-strikes-and-you’re out drug policy, which apparently received big thumbs up from both sides, actually eclipses anti-drug programs in other pro leagues.
“We might have been a little bit like the turtle and hare, but we caught up and we passed them,? said CFL commissioner Mark Cohon during yesterday’s CBA ratification announcement in Toronto.
Random drug testing, which kicks in next season, will be conducted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.
First-time offenders will be required to enter drug-education programs, while a repeat offender earns an automatic three-game suspension.
Anyone testing positive a third time receives a one-year ban, and a fourth offence gets a lifetime ban.
Ed Molstad, legal council for the CFLPA, said players were “virtually unanimous in their support for drug testing for two reasons: It’s good for their health and it creates a level playing field.?
Recreational drugs, like cannabis, were excluded from the banned substance list.
Possession, however, remains illegal in Canada.
While CFLPA boss Stu Laird seemed satisfied with the new CBA, it could be argued the players gave up more ground than they gained.
n Teams are now allowed to hold three-day mini-camps between Feb. 1 and April 30. While participation isn’t mandatory, it is probably a good idea to show up.
n In exchange for a $300,000 increase in the salary cap over the duration of the CBA, players can no longer claim 56% of league revenues from ticket sales, television revenue and merchandise sales.
While yesterday was a good day for Cohon on the labour front, so was news that Ottawa city council had voted to help refurbish Lansdowne Park and Frank Clair Stadium — key to the CFL returning to the nation’s capital in 2013.
“The league is in a position now where we can truly invest in growth,? Cohon said, also mentioning the Toronto Argonauts’ Sept. 26 game in Moncton against the Edmonton Eskimos and potential new stadiums for Hamilton, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan as positive signs.
wow. the only league doing blood tests with urine tests, and testing for HGH. the CFL has become the leader in drug-testing.
also, with the minimal increase in player salaries, the CFL can continue to grow. i think players recognized that they must stay stagnant in the salary department so they can get blood testing, and allow the league to expand to ottawa, thus creating more jobs...the league will be in much better shape when the next CBA comes around, and the players will likely get a bigger piece of the pie then....seems they are both working together towards a bigger goal.