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Goodell wants to keep marijuana on banned substance list

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl, in New York January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl, in New York January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the legalization of marijuana in the two states represented by teams in the Super Bowl, pot will remain on the National Football League's banned substance list, said commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday.

Both Colorado and Washington, home of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, who will clash in the NFL's championship game on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, have legalized pot, prompting some to question if the league should simply stop testing for marijuana and abide by state laws.

Washington state and Colorado voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana use, though the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Goodell made it clear during his annual state of the league address ahead of Sunday's showcase that the NFL will continue to take a serious and dim view on players testing positive for pot.

"This has been something that has been asked several times and I'll try to be as clear as I possibly can," said Goodell. "It is still an illegal substance on a national basis.

"It's something that's part of our collective bargaining agreement with our players.

"It is questionable with respect to the positive impact but there is certainly some very strong evidence to the negative impacts, including addiction and other issues."

Advocates of legal pot are using the Super Bowl to promote their message. On five billboards near the site of the big game in New Jersey, the Marijuana Policy Project questions the NFL's ban on pot use by players, asserting in one that pot is "safer than alcohol … and football."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll joined the debate earlier in the week, saying the league should not rule out allowing players to use medical marijuana to manage pain, if medical science supports the idea.

Goodell did not rule out the possibility but on Friday again reiterated his stand that the league would follow the lead of doctors in determining whether to drop its opposition to players' use of the drug.

"We'll continue to follow the medicine," said Goodell. "Our experts right now are not indicating we should change our policy in any way, we are not actively considering that at this point and time.

"But if it does down the road some time, that's something we would never take off the table if we could benefit our players at the end of the day.

"So I don't see any change in the near future."

Asked if he would submit to a random test of marijuana, Goodell did not hesitate, drawing a hearty laugh from the media with his quick retort.

"I am randomly tested," smiled Goodell. "And I am happy to say that I am clean."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in New York, Editing by Gene Cherry)

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