A ruling from the Internal Revenue Service -- that the workers who collect urine samples for drug testing are employees and not independent contractors -- could cost the NFL millions in benefits.

According to the New York Daily News, the league received a Feb. 27 ruling letter from the IRS with the news that it would have to contribute half of the workers' 2006 employment taxes and the workers will be allowed to file amended returns for the three previous years to recover taxes the NFL should have paid. According to the newspaper, there are currently 72 workers who handle the sampling, which is part of a drug-testing program dating back to 1987.

The NFL had already appealed an earlier determination, which came after a current drug-testing agent requested a ruling from the IRS. A lawyer who represents several of the sample collectors said that his clients might either pursue a negotiated settlement with the NFL, or explore a possible class action lawsuit.

Regardless, last year the NFL decided to change its drug-testing program, and outsource collections to Comprehensive Drug Testing of Long Beach, Calif., which also handles collections for Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

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