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Other sports leagues, anti-doping group support NFL in case of Williamses

MINNEAPOLIS -- U.S. Olympic officials, Major League Baseball and other professional sports organizations are joining the NFL's fight with two Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles who face four-game suspensions for violating the league's anti-doping policy.

MLB, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League asked for permission Monday to file paperwork in federal court in support of the NFL, which wants to suspend the players at the beginning of the upcoming season. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed a similar motion on its own.

Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who aren't related, have never been accused of taking steroids. They tested positive last summer for a banned diuretic, bumetanide, that can mask the presence of steroids. They took the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which contained the diuretic but wasn't listed on the label.

The leagues contend their own collectively bargained drug-testing programs would be affected if the Williamses are allowed to fight their suspensions in state court. USADA argues uniform rules are needed "to ensure a level playing field."

"It's obviously important to the anti-doping movement that uniformity apply across the entire country," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

In May, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson dismissed most of the Williamses' claims and a related case filed by the NFL Players Association but allowed the players to pursue two claims in state court. One claim involves a Minnesota law on when and how employers can require employees to submit to drug testing. The other involves a state law that prohibits an employer from disciplining an employee for using a legal substance offsite during non-working hours.

In their request, the other leagues contend that Magnuson's ruling would subject their drug-testing programs to similar challenges by players in Minnesota and other states.

Peter Ginsberg, an attorney for the Williamses, said it doesn't matter to him if other sports leagues sign on to support the NFL.

"Sports organizations can't simply declare that they don't care about state law and not plan on abiding by state law and use that as justification, as the NFL has attempted to do," Ginsberg said.

NFL attorney Dan Nash had no comment on the other leagues' filing.

Last week, a Minnesota judge blocked the NFL's plan to suspend the Williamses, a move their attorney said should let them start the 2009 season.

Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson granted the players' request for a temporary restraining order that keeps the NFL from suspending them until their case is decided. The judge also scheduled a July 22 hearing on whether he should put the state court proceedings on hold while a federal appeals court considers other issues in the case.

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