NFL seeks appeal to have Williamses case dismissed outright

MINNEAPOLIS -- The NFL filed notice Tuesday that it plans to appeal a federal judge's ruling in the case of two Minnesota Vikings players facing suspensions over their positive tests for a banned drug.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson threw out most of the claims by Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Magnuson also dismissed a lawsuit brought by the NFL players' union on behalf of the Williamses and three New Orleans Saints players also facing suspension.

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But Magnuson remanded the Williamses' two remaining claims to state court.

In Tuesday's filing, attorneys for the NFL said they will ask the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review whether Magnuson misapplied federal law when he didn't dismiss those two claims outright.

The NFL Players Association and the Williamses say NFL officials knew a weight-loss supplement called StarCaps contained the banned diuretic bumetanide back in 2006, even though it wasn't listed on the label, and that the league should have notified players and federal regulators. The NFL bans bumetanide because it can be used as a masking agent for steroids.

The Williamses weren't accused of taking steroids.

The Williamses, who aren't related, are seeking to have their four-game suspensions overturned, as well as monetary damages. An injunction allowing the Williamses to continue playing remains in place.

In his ruling last Friday, Magnuson said the NFL's policy is clear: Players ultimately are responsible for what they put into their bodies, and inadvertently ingesting a banned substance isn't an excuse.

But 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 employers from disciplining employees for using a legal substance offsite during nonworking hours.

"The NFL has a policy that prohibits the use of performance-enhancing drugs," the league said in a statement. "That policy applies nationwide to all 32 NFL teams and their employees."

The NFL noted that Magnuson recognized that federal law permits nationwide policy and the league's policy was reached through collective bargaining. It urged that any state law claims inconsistent with federal labor law should be dismissed.

It's not clear if the union will file its own appeal. Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler was out of the country Tuesday and couldn't be immediately reached for comment, his office said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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