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Cowboys Defensive End’s 2-Game PED Ban Isn’t Nearly as Simple as It Sounds

Robert Quinn will miss the Cowboys' first two games, against NFC East rivals the Giants and Redskins.EXPAND
Robert Quinn will miss the Cowboys' first two games, against NFC East rivals the Giants and Redskins.
Mark Brown / Getty

Robert Quinn, the newly acquired pass rushing complement to DeMarcus Lawrence, is the latest in a long line of Dallas Cowboys to run afoul of the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy. Thursday, the league suspended Quinn, who is currently recuperating from a broken hand, for the first two games of the 2019 regular season. 

According to his lawyer, Quinn's suspension isn't what it appears. Quinn, Sean Kiernan says, tested positive for probenecid, a substance classified as a masking agent by the NFL's drug policy. Masking agents make steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs harder to detect in blood or urine tests. Probenecid is also often prescribed to people suffering from gout.

While probenecid was popular for NFL players on doping regimens in the 1980s and '90s, it rarely appears on drug screens now. In fact, Kiernan says, John Lombardo, the doctor who oversees the NFL's drug testing program, had seen only one previous player test positive for probenecid prior to Quinn.

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Quinn's lawyers eventually found out that a pharmacy at which Quinn was filling a prescription for a seizure medication also filled a prescription for probenecid shortly before bottling Quinn's drugs. The level of the gout medication in Quinn's system is consistent with his seizure medication having been contaminated, according to the player's legal team.

During Quinn's doping hearing, NFL representatives admitted that they don't believe Quinn doped on purpose, but they suspended him for violating the letter of the law anyway, Kiernan said.

At least one Cowboys defensive player has been suspended at the start of the last six seasons. This year, both Quinn and Randy Gregory, currently on ice for the fourth time thanks to failing a league-mandated marijuana test, won't be allowed to participate on opening day against the Giants. 

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