Ram tailback Charles White was suspended for 30 days by the National Football League Wednesday for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Coach John Robinson said that the substance in this case was alcohol, not cocaine. But because of White's past drug problems--he was arrested Aug. 21, 1987 for being under the influence of a controlled sustance--White was considered in the second phase of the league's drug program, under which alcohol becomes a "just-cause" substance subject to discipline.
Another positive test by White would subject him to a mandatory one-year suspension.
Robinson said the Rams were informed of the news Wednesday afternoon by Don Weiss, the NFL's executive director. White cannot return to the team's training complex in Anaheim until Oct. 7. He will miss at least four games.
White, reached Wednesday night, said he was shocked by the announcement.
"I was surprised," he said. "Because my thing was drug-related. I didn't know it (the drug policy) pertained to alcohol. But I was taught at re-hab that alcohol is a reason people go back (to drugs)."
Ever since last year's arrest, White has been tested three times weekly by the Rams, with results being shipped to the league office.
It was believed that White tested positive on or about Aug. 18--even White wasn't sure. He said he had "a few beers" in his room after practice at the team's training facility at Cal State Fullerton. White said he told the nurse conducting his urine test the next day that he had been drinking the night before.
"It's nobody's fault but mine," White said. "I just want to say to all players who have a problem that even alcohol is something to be worried about."
A secretary for Dr. Forest Tennant, the NFL's drug adviser, referred all calls concerning White to the league office.
The NFL issued the following statement Wednesday:
"Charles White of the Los Angeles Rams has been notified that he has been placed on that club's non-football illness list for a period of 30 days effective today. The action was taken after White violated provisions of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He has been instructed to remain out of the Rams' training facility until October 7."
Robinson said he informed White of the news after Wednesday's practice.
"We want to comply exactly with the policy the league has set down," Robinson said. "We want to do what we can to see that Charlie leads a healthy life and can continue to pursue his career. The healthy life is the important part.
"We stated before that if Charlie had a relapse relative to the cocaine incident, that we would no longer have him on our team. We feel like he's worked hard to stay drug-free. We're sorry for him and for all of us that this incident happened."
Robinson said his promise to remove White from the team for any drug relapse still stands.
"Relative to cocaine," he said. "Right now, we'll look at the 30-day suspension. . . . He has almost a daily record of treatment beginning last August."
Under the league's drug policy, the Rams can suspend White's salary for the 30-day period. White will earn $225,000 this season. Robinson said he hasn't made a decision on whether to suspend pay.
White was arrested more than a year ago, after he was found wandering in a vacant field in Brea. He was held on misdemeanor charges of being under the influence of a controlled sustance. Those charges were recently dropped after White completed court-ordered rehabilitaion and family counseling.
White admitted later that his cocaine relapse that day was triggered by alcohol.
"I'm just fortunate," he said of Wednesday's suspension. "It could have been worse. There's something to be learned here. You just can't fool around with nothing, even alcohol."
White said he'll talk to Robinson today about a workout schedule during his suspension. He is not allowed on the grounds at Rams Park during that time.
"I'll just work out and find the faith to keep myself strong," he said.