NFL Gives Advance Notice for Steroid Tests?

  • Tweet

The National Football League (NFL) has masterfully handled the public relations of their drug testing program. The NFL has largely escaped the steroid scandals that have engulfed Major League Baseball (MLB) in the past decade. It isn’t because NFL has eliminated steroids from football. It isn’t because steroid use is lower in football than baseball. It’s simply a matter of PR that has created the perception among the general public and sportswriters that the NFL’s Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances is effective and steroid use isn’t a problem.

Maybe giving football players advance notice of steroid tests helps minimize any problematic failed steroid tests as well. The Wall Street Journal recounts an incident last week during the Green Bay Packers – Philadelphia Eagles playoff  game where a reporter observed a player receiving advance notice of a steroid test from the team’s head trainer (“Is the NFL Telegraphing Drug Tests,” January 20).

After the Green Bay Packers’ Jan. 9 playoff win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Pepper Burruss, the team’s head trainer, wove through the locker room carrying a piece of paper with a list of names. When he reached Scott Wells, the team’s starting center, he stopped. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Mr. Burruss said.

Mr. Wells instantly knew what the trainer meant and was mildly annoyed. “I just had one,” he said. Before moving on, Mr. Burruss told Mr. Wells he should be ready “between 10 and two.”

When the trainer left, Mr. Wells turned to a reporter and shrugged. “Drug test,” he said.

The message was nonchalantly delivered, or “telegraphed”, in apparent code with a sort of wink and a nod in front of a reporter. The meaning of the message was effectively conveyed and the player offered the reporter the interpretation probably forgetting the advance notice is a violation of the NFL Policy on Anabolic Steroids.

Doping flourishes in sports like cycling and track and field which are subject to the most rigorous drug-testing standards presented by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Other sports, such as NFL and MLB, have much more lax anti-doping rules. With advance notice, the NFL’s drug testing program is essentially a joke.

The problem, they say, is that by giving an athlete notice of a drug test the following day, one that would not be conducted for at least 15 hours, the Packers give the player ample time to take measures to “beat” the test by distorting his sample. When Olympic athletes are visited by collectors, they’re required to produce samples immediately and without leaving the testers’ sight. “If you’re going to do advanced warning, you might as well not test,” said David Howman, director general of the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing in all Olympic sports. “Half an hour is a lot of warning. That’s how quickly you can manipulate the tests.”

It is unlikely this revelation of apparent advance notice will cause much concern or uproar. Nowadays, there is a considerable amount of steroid fatigue and apathy when it comes to the steroid topic in popular sports like football. The public, fans, management, players, and sportswriters have all seen what steroid hysteria has done to baseball. They would gladly overlook such transgressions so that they can continue to enjoy football. This is not only true among fans but particularly true among those with a vested financial interest in the business of football.

National Football League Policy on Anabolic Steroids

About Millard Baker