Merriman drops appeal, starts his suspension

Chargers linebacker will miss next 4 games after testing positive for steroid nandrolone

November 01, 2006|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

Shawne Merriman abandoned the appeal of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on steroids and will miss the San Diego Chargers' next four games, the league announced yesterday.

On Oct. 23, the second-year linebacker and his agent said in a news conference that he had tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone, but would appeal on the basis of a tainted, over-the-counter supplement he had been taking.

On Sunday, before cheering Chargers fans, he made another statement with a career-high three sacks in a win over the St. Louis Rams.

But yesterday, in a concession to the fact that the appeal process is a long shot, Merriman decided to drop his case and serve his time.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the former Maryland standout will forfeit nearly $73,000 of his $310,000 salary for 2006.

Perhaps critical to the decision was that Merriman could have missed two AFC West games against the Denver Broncos if his appeal became protracted. He also injured his right heel in Sunday's game, although the severity of the injury is not known.

By accepting the suspension now, Merriman will miss games against the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver and the Oakland Raiders during November, but will return for a Dec. 3 game at Buffalo. The following week, on Dec. 10, the Chargers face the Broncos in San Diego in what figures to be a key division game.

Merriman is not permitted at the Chargers' practice facility during the suspension, but in an arrangement worked out by his attorney, David Cornwell, he will have the opportunity to address his teammates today.

The case was scheduled to be heard by the league Nov. 7. Merriman had a deadline of noon yesterday to either drop the appeal or move forward with it.

Because the league adheres to a strict liability philosophy on drug tests, there was little chance Merriman would have overturned the suspension, even though it was his first failed test.

In its no-tolerance policy, the NFL suspends a player four games for a first steroids offense, eight for the second and a minimum of an entire year for the third.

Cornwell last week said the league needs to address the application of a program that seems to catch more unknowing violators than those with intent to cheat.

"Because of the partnership of the men who play the game and run the league, it seems like there should be adequate resources to come at the problem in a way that is less draconian than sitting these young men down, taking their money and, in some instances, ending careers," Cornwell said.

Merriman's 8 1/2 sacks tied Aaron Kampman of the Green Bay Packers for the league lead. He also is credited with 12 hits on the quarterback.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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