The League

Roman Oben
Retired Football Player

Roman Oben

Played 12 years as a tackle in the NFL

PEDs Don't an All-Pro Make


There used to be a clear definition of what was actually steroids and what wasn't. These days, however, the definition of what is a steroid/banned substance is up to interpretation. Should a player be excluded from the Hall of Fame because of murky legalisms?

My biggest beef with the steroid policy is that most guys have received four-game suspensions because they took substances that were on the banned list with literally hundreds of other substances. This issue didn't become prevalent until after Korey Stringer died in 2001. Yes, ephedera and other dieurretics have been the reason why most players have received suspensions.

Over the last few years there has been much discussion about the seemingly tarnished records in Major League baseball due to performance enhancing drugs.

We have seen some of our baseball heroes take the fall, testify before congress and miss games. As we put mental asterisks by their records, questions come to mind when those players become eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.

It seems clear cut that a baseball player who uses steroids is not the same caliber of player as one who doesn't because using banned substances in baseball has a direct effect on the power of a swing, thus resulting in more home runs.

But on the gridiron, I don't think banned substances have the same effect on performance. Because football is the most physically demanding sport, training is only one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is how good of a football player you are.

Steroids can't take you from a special teams contributor to a Pro Bowl linebacker. Getting bigger, faster and stronger won't make you catch or tackle better or throw a perfect spiral.

In today's era, potential Hall of Famers who have missed games because of the steroid policy (Julius Peppers, Shawne Merriman for example) should still be considered for the Hall of Fame. Perhaps baseball is different, but one cannot cheat his way through an NFL career.

Once a player returns from a four-game suspension, he is monitored under the most rigid standards, getting tested at least 10 times a month. If he fails another test, then it's a one-year ban from NFL. Strike three, then you're out of the NFL for good.

This is not the same "slap-on-the-wrist" suspension we see in MLB. In my 12-year career, I never saw a perennial Pro Bowl player bounce back from that. They just don't exist in football.

That's why Jerry Rice, Dan Marino and Brett Favre were so special. But then again, so are players of today like Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis and LaDainian Thomlinson -- no asterisk needed.

By Roman Oben  |  July 31, 2009; 2:53 PM ET  | Category:  NFL , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This comment is so silly and filled with falsehoods, one has to wonder how this ever made it into the Washington Post.

Let's see -- he says the NFL four-game suspension is so much tougher than the MLB "slap on the wrist." The MLB suspension is 50 games -- a greater percentage of the season than the NFL.

He says he never saw a Pro Bowl player bounce back from the four-game suspension. But a few sentences earlier, he mentions Shawn Merriman and Julius Peppers as players who were suspended. They bounced back and remain dominant players.

He says that "it seems clear cut that a baseball player who uses steroids is not the same caliber of player as one who doesn't ...." But not so again -- many of the implicated baseball players, like Barry Bonds and A-Rod, were Hall of Fame caliber before any time they used or allegedly used steroids.

And the silliest statement of them all -- he says "Steroids can't take you from a special teams contributor to a Pro Bowl linebacker. Getting bigger, faster and stronger won't make you catch or tackle better or throw a perfect spiral." Of all our sports, football most prizes those who are bigger, faster and stronger. I can't think of a sport in which steroids, HGH and other drugs would make a bigger difference in performance. The NFL would be a vastly slower league, with smaller players, without PEDs.

Posted by: woocane | August 1, 2009 12:26 AM

I gotta agree with the above post. They let former players take over the TV booth, but this is a little embarrassing.

Posted by: delOH | August 1, 2009 9:11 AM

Being bigger, stronger and faster only helps you if you can play the game of football. Being bigger, stronger and faster by itself is not enough. Baseball institutionalizes cheating. There is not comparison between the policing of PEDs in football and in baseball. In 2003, there were over 100 players who tested positive for PEDs and baseball covered it up. To compare the two sports is ridiculous. Baseball turned the other way while every star player in the early 2000's was juicing because all the homeruns saved the dirty, greedy American past-time from its most recent players' strike. Whereas, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc. have been able to use PEDs and get away with it and get better, there isn't a single NFL player who has repeatedly used PEDs and been able to become a better player or extend his career. Not one. Remember Tony Mandarich? Too bad there aren't PEDs for WOOCAINE and DELOH's brains. Maybe what you write would make more sense then. Learn to read and understand what you make comments about before you embarrass yourself on the internet.

Posted by: andrejbajuk | August 1, 2009 12:06 PM

Professional team sports are a form of entertainment so the primary issue is the players' health. I expect a player to be free to do whatever they wish to enhance their performance as long as it is healthy (analagous to movie stars that get plastic surgery). As long as the player is not abusing the PED (taking them to the point of affecting their long-term health), it is just another way for the player/entertainer to enhance their performance and provide a better experience for the fans.

Posted by: gsigas | August 1, 2009 12:52 PM

I'm not sure why this issue and its solution is a no-brainer for me, but it really is very simple.

The FDA regulates all drugs, prescription and OTC, as well as all dietary supplements. All those substances have specific names and their chemical composition is fully known.

Major league sports bodies need to obtain that comprehensive list and select those substances which may not be ingested for any reason. Any substance that is not already on the list of approved substances is banned as well. That eliminates the legal loophole of designer drugs being tailored, but not yet identified and banned.

On the rare occasion that a player needs to take a drug not on the FDA list, for instance in stage one clinical trials for some orphan disease, then a panel is assembled to hear the individual case.

But any other ingestion is illegal, subject to mandatory and permanent expulsion from the sport, and elimination of the possibility of being inducted into a hall of fame.

In addition, I would also submit that any records set by the player be removed from the record books. Not placed with an asterisk, but removed completely. And that would hold true whether or not the player was taking a substance at the time the record was set.

Posted by: crisp11 | August 1, 2009 1:17 PM

As to the point that PEDs don't make an everyday joe into an all-star, I beg to differ. There are numerous examples of average players achieving stupendous years by virtue of their PED use, and who plummet back to mediocrity after they go off the PEDs. Just review a list of those players in the 90s who has one or two years hitting 50+ home runs before returning to 20 homers per year.

As for the NFL vs. MLB, the different perspective on PED use is just that, it the based on the different perspective of the fans and writers to each sport. Honestly, PED use in any sport should be and is banned. Just because one sport, the NFL, doesn't follow through strongly with the regulation doesnt' mean other sports, like MLB, should pursue that same lax regulation.

I think where it really comes down to is would I want children to consider PEDs during their lifestime because professional athletes take it. NO WAY!

Posted by: mbrandon1 | August 1, 2009 1:49 PM

This is a silly statement. First of all the special teams often win the games - the kickers can score more than the quarterbacks, and they are just as important. If your point was that you can't go from mediocre to great on drugs then why do some go from great to mediocre off drugs.

Posted by: washpost35 | August 1, 2009 10:19 PM

“Getting bigger, faster and stronger won't make you catch or tackle better or throw a perfect spiral.”

This has to be the stupidest statement written by an official contributor in this paper to date. I’d expect this from one of the anonymous comments.

Why on earth do they have a combine? Because the NFL is all about bigger, faster, and stronger. No steroids won’t make you better with the technique, what it does is make you more able to make an impact when and if you get the technique down.

In football the primary difference between a good reciver and a great one isn’t if they can catch (catching is a prerequisite to be a “good player” otherwise you’d wash out of the league pretty soon.) What makes a receiver great is his speed, height, and jumping ability. PEDs can improve two out of three.

There are scores of quarterbacks in the league who have accurate short throws, but those who can throw it further or faster accurately have an advantage. The stronger you are, the less effort is required to throw any given distance or speed. Therefore increased strength causes increased accuracy over longer distances or faster passes. Arm strength is key, that’s why QBs hit the gym in the first place.

And for whatever level of tackling skill you have, the heavier and stronger you are the harder you can hit and the harder you can tackle. It’s simple physics.

And not to let the baseball fans off the hook: Yes, steroids will not make you hit the ball, but it will allow you to swing with less effort while generating the same bat speed. Again, the less effort you put into the swing, the more control you have (that’s why it’s harder to connect well when you are swinging for the fences). Therefore, PEDs increase your chances of contact with any given bat speed swing. Alternately, they let you swing harder with the same amount of control, and also allow you to swing harder overall, so when you do hit the ball, the line drives are faster and the fly balls fly further. Now what batter wouldn’t want that?

Again, PEDs will not take someone with no skills and make them great. But unfortunately it can be, and often is, the difference between a good player and a great one.

Posted by: Cobalt1 | August 3, 2009 3:24 AM

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