THE CFL has labour peace and, for the first time in its history, a drug-testing program.
The league and CFL Players' Association announced the details of a new four-year collective bargaining agreement Tuesday following the formal ratification of the deal by the players during training camp. The new CBA includes slight increases to the salary cap and a boost to the minimum wage, but the biggest nugget is the drug-testing policy -- making the CFL the last North American professional sports league to implement one.
"The players understand it's great for the image of the league... to be the last professional sporting environment where we didn't have a drug policy, we needed to catch up," said Winnipeg Blue Bomber defensive tackle Doug Brown, one of the team's two player reps along with Ike Charlton.
"I think it looks good on the CFL now that we've entered that era where you don't have to worry about whether the guy playing next to you is taking something he shouldn't be."
The new program begins this year with players educated on a list of the 132 banned substances, including human growth hormone but not recreational drugs. The formal testing begins in 2011 with 25 per cent of all players undergoing random tests, followed by 35 per cent in 2012 and 2013.
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport will conduct both blood and urine tests year round with a first offence resulting in mandatory testing and counselling -- but no penalty -- while a second offence triggers a three-game suspension. A player nabbed a third time will be suspended for one year while a fourth infraction results in a lifetime ban.
As well, if a player has already tested positive for a substance on the banned list in any other league, be it pro or amateur, it will count as a violation under the CFL policy. The CFL will also pay to have the top 80 draft prospects tested.
Among the other highlights of the new deal:
-- The ratio that allows for 20 Canadians on the 42-man roster -- seven of which must be starters -- remains unchanged.
-- A provision that required the league to devote at least 56 per cent of gross revenue to players salaries has been scrapped in an effort to allow franchises to build their businesses and attract new owners.
-- The salary cap will increase by $50,000 per year over the course of the agreement, reaching $4.4 million in 2013.
-- The minimum cap increases by $800,000, effectively immediately, from $3.1 million to $3.9 million.
-- The minimum player salary will increase to $45,000 by 2013.
-- The CFL will contribute more to player pensions and make an annual payment to the CFLPA to help with players making career transitions.
-- Players will now receive year-round insurance benefits and medical treatment.
-- The agreement that allowed players in the option year of their contract to sign with an NFL team from Jan.1-Feb. 16 will be eliminated after February 2012. Any new contracts signed within a month of the ratification will not have the NFL option window in any year.
-- Teams are now allowed to conduct off-season workouts providing they are voluntary, non-contact, no more than three days and allow for the players to be paid a per diem, provided meals, travel and lodging.