A huge section in one of our favorite newspapers -- The San Diego Union-Tribune -- looks at steroid and PED use in the National Football League. The index will be found at this link.
1. The introductory section asks a well-discussed, but never answered question: Why does football (NFL) get a pass when it comes to steroids? NFL PED use, never a secret, just does not resonate as an outrage in fans, even after a major scandal -- the Carolina Panthers Pre-Superbowl use of steroids and HGH.
With the nation's most popular professional sports league three weeks into a new season – and with several players serving suspensions for positive tests – The San Diego Union-Tribune sought to compile the most comprehensive list to date of NFL players linked to performance-enhancing drugs. It is the NFL equivalent of the Mitchell Report, the much-publicized assessment of performance-enhancing drug use in baseball released last December by former Sen. George Mitchell and mandated by Commissioner Bud Selig. That report had 85 names dating to about 1993.
How many NFL players actually enhance performance with doping? (note in USA professional sports the performance enhancing drugs are called 'steroids', or 'PEDs', whereas in Olympic sports 'doping' covers the issue.)
“If I had to venture to guess, you're touching the tip of the iceberg,” said Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor emeritus and anabolic steroids expert. “Because of the secretive nature of all of it, it's very difficult to come up with any kind of solid handle.”
Estimates from players over time have ranged from widespread use for certain teams in the 1960s and '70s to as much as 75 percent of linemen, linebackers and tight ends in the 1980s. Washington Redskins offensive lineman Jon Jansen estimated in a 2006 HBO interview that 15 to 20 percent of players use performance-enhancing drugs. He later backed away from that guess. But if the estimates over time are accurate, the real number could be in the thousands, of which testing has caught a small portion.
Several other issues emerge including this: The NFL resists a WADA-type anti-doping program
The NFL also has resisted adopting the WADA testing program and protocols, considered to be far more detailed and at the cutting edge of anti-doping efforts. And first-time violators are suspended for four games by the NFL, compared with two years by WADA...
Wadler said he suspects the NFL wants to administer its own testing program the way it sees fit for one reason.
“It's a loss of control, particularly when it's superstars who fill their seats,” he said. “They're probably petrified of a two-year or four-year suspension of their superstars, given the monetary issues in these professional sports.”
The NFL disagrees. Adolpho Birch, the league's vice president of law and labor policy, notes that the NFL was testing for these drugs long before WADA was even formed in 2000. He notes that the league does 12,000 drug tests a year on about 2,000 players, compared with 4,500 by WADA and the International Olympic Committee at the Olympics, where there were about 11,000 athletes.
Birch said it would be difficult to do game-day testing because of “the nature of team travel” after games. He said NFL testing accounts for game-day stimulant use by testing the next day with a lower threshold for what would be considered a positive stimulant test.
As for the number of banned substances on the NFL list, Birch said, “What we have been able to do is determine what things are relevant and apt to be used by our players. We put those on our list.”
Birch also disputes that WADA could be any more of an expert on the issue than the NFL. “We have experts in the field, the same experts they consult, the same laboratories,” he said...
“We have a history, and we recognize that history particularly leading up to the time the policy came in,” Birch said. “That history is what led to the players' union and league coming together in determining we needed to have an effective steroid policy. We have been extremely proactive as it relates to any testing organization. We've banned things like ephedra before the government got to them. When we see issues, we deal with them.”