Federal judge denies most of Williamses' claims in StarCaps case

MINNEAPOLIS -- A federal judge has dismissed most of the claims by two Minnesota Vikings stars facing suspension over their positive test for a banned diuretic.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson on Friday remanded two of the claims by Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to state court.

But Magnuson threw out most of the Williamses' claims and dismissed a lawsuit brought by the NFL Players Association on behalf of the Williamses and three New Orleans Saints players also facing suspension.

Attorneys for the union and the Williamses argued that league officials knew a supplement called StarCaps contained a banned diuretic back in 2006 and did not specifically notify players or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But the judge agreed with the NFL that players are responsible for what is in their bodies.

Peter Ginsberg, an attorney for the Williamses, was pleased that Magnuson allowed the case to proceed in state court, where it originated.

"We started this case in state court, so we're back where we started," Ginsberg said.

He said an injunction allowing the Williamses to continue to play remains in place.

The judge's ruling pleased the NFL.

"The decision strongly supports the NFL program on performance-enhancing substances that protects the health and safety of NFL players and the integrity of our game," the league said in a statement.

Messages left for an attorney with the NFLPA were not immediately returned.

The Williamses, who are not related, were seeking monetary damages in addition to having a four-game suspension from the NFL overturned.

Bumetanide, which can be used as a masking agent for steroids, has been found in StarCaps, though it is not on the label. According to court documents, the Williamses had no trace of steroids in their systems.

In court last week, attorneys for the union and the Williamses argued that new evidence shows a hotline for players to get information on such issues gave out false information about the supplement, and told players it was not banned.

Attorneys for the NFL disputed that, saying hotline operators warned players against taking any supplements -- and that players are ultimately responsible for what they put into their bodies.

Magnuson sided with the NFL.

"The (league's) policy is unequivocal: Players are responsible for what is in their bodies, and inadvertent ingestion of a banned substance will not excuse a positive test result," the judge wrote.

The judge also found that the information on the hotline was "undisputedly accurate."

"Through the hotline, the NFL was attempting to tell players what they already knew: They should not take dietary supplements. NFL players are adults. They are warned repeatedly not to take dietary supplements and that such supplements may cause a positive test for a banned substance," Magnuson wrote.

The judge sent back to state court the Williamses' claims involving Minnesota laws on when and how employers can require their employees to submit to drug testing, and prohibiting a Minnesota employer from disciplining an employee for using a legal substance offsite during nonworking hours.

The Williamses sued the NFL for monetary damages. The players union also sued to overturn the suspensions of the Williamses and of Saints players Charles Grant, Will Smith and Deuce McAllister. McAllister was released by New Orleans after last season.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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