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NFL suspends Vikings' Williamses for 4 games

UPDATED 5:10...

Minnesota's Kevin and Pat Williams

UPDATED 5:10

NEW YORK (AP) - Six players, including the heart of the Minnesota Vikings' stout defensive line, were suspended for four games without pay by the NFL on Tuesday for violating the league's anti-doping policy.

All six were punished for using a diuretic, which can serve as a masking agent for steroids.

The suspended players were running back Deuce McAllister and defensive linemen Charles Grant and Will Smith of New Orleans; defensive linemen Kevin and Pat Williams of Minnesota; and long snapper Bryan Pittman of Houston.

A seventh player, Atlanta's Grady Jackson, was not suspended. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league chief counsel Jeff Pash had asked for additional information from Jackson.

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The punishment is an especially harsh blow to Minnesota, which leads the NFC North and relies heavily on the two Williamses in its run defense, which ranks second in the league.

Angelo Wright, the agent for Pat and Kevin Williams, said he would file a motion in federal court Wednesday morning, presumably to put off the suspensions.

If a player's team makes the playoffs, the player will be eligible to return to the active roster on Dec. 29.

Asked about the late scheduling of the suspensions, Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president of law and labor policy, said the timing was ``a function of a lot of factors.'

``I think if you ask most coaches, every game is important. I don't think they'd differentiate between the first and the last,' Birch said in a conference call. ``We do have things in place to get them done as quickly as possible. But we had to deal with the number of players involved and adjust travel schedules. We have to fit it around the players' ability to attend.'

David Cornwell, the lawyer for the three Saints, called the decisions ``inconsistent with the objectives of the steroid policy.'

``Deuce, Will, and Charles did not try to enhance their performance with steroids, nor did they knowingly expose themselves to the adverse health risks of a diuretic,' Cornwell said in an e-mail. ``They took a weight loss supplement that they had every reason to believe was safe.'

In their appeals, some players said the banned substance Bumetanide was not listed as an ingredient in StarCaps, an over-the-counter weight-loss pill.

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In fact, Jackson filed suit against StarCaps in Alameda County Superior Court in California last month, seeking restitution for any lost salary and damages for ``false advertising and unfair business practices.'

But in issuing the suspensions, the league reiterated the section of its policy that reads:

``You and you alone are responsible for what goes into your body. Claiming that you used only legally available nutritional supplements will not help you in an appeal. ... Even if they are bought over-the-counter from a known establishment, there is currently no way to be sure that they contain the ingredients listed on the packaging or have not been tainted with prohibited substances ...

``If you take these products, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK! For your own health and success in the league, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take.'

The NFL also said it sent two notifications about StarCaps on Dec. 19, 2006 - one to NFL club presidents, general managers and head athletic trainers and the second to NFLPA executive Stacy Robinson, who oversees the steroid policy for the union. That letter, according to the league, advised that StarCaps had been added to the list of prohibited dietary supplement companies.

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