The League

Leonard Shapiro

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Level the playing field


Many years ago, I once asked an undersized offensive lineman for George Allen's 1970s Redskins teams why he and some of his teammates would ever consider taking amphetamines, otherwise known as speed, to improve their performance on Sunday.

The answer was simple. I'm paraphrasing here, but his justification went something like this:

"Because I know that crazy sumabitch I gotta' block weighs 30 pounds more than I do and he's snorting and stomping around like a bull in heat," he said at the time. "I know he's taking something, and if I don't do it too, I'll get my quarterback killed."

At the time, amphetamines (greenies, black beauties, whatever) were rampant throughout the league, in some cases dispensed by teams like candy corn at Halloween. They didn't drug test back then and if you couldn't get your dosage from the club, diet pills prescribed to their wives and girlfriends provided another easily accessible source.

Not everyone did it, but you could always tell who did. They were the guys who sat on a stool facing into their lockers after a game, heads on their hands, staring blankly at the street clothes they would have to put on once they came down and entered the real world again.

Eventually, the league finally adapted drug testing and the problem with all that pharmaceutical speed on the field allegedly diminished, only to be replaced by other performance enhancing drugs (PEDS) -- steroids and human growth hormone -- that also were finally banned, with costly suspensions thought to be the critical deterrent.

And yet, it remains fairly obvious that despite all the testing, and all the tough-love consequences meted out by the current no-nonsense commissioner, there are still some dolts all around the league who think they can somehow fool the system. This year, the defensive rookie of the year, Brian Cushing of the Texans, got nailed for steroids and will serve a four-game suspension.

Redskins receiver Santana Moss has told teammates he was treated three times by Canadian doctor feel good Anthony Galea in an attempt to hasten his recovery from offseason knee surgery and hamstring problems. His teammate, defensive lineman Philip Daniels, said Moss indicated to a few other players he didn't know if he'd been injected with human growth hormone as part of that treatment.

"Sometimes guys go to these outside people, put their trust in these people to get you healthy and do the right thing and sometimes it just doesn't work out," Daniels told The Post this week.

Oh please. Any player on an NFL roster in 2010 better know damned well what he's being injected with. He better know whether that supplement he bought at the GNC store has any substances banned by the league. And he better know that if a buddy on or off the team offers him a pill guaranteed to ease his pain he just has to say no. If not, he deserves any punishment the commissioner sees fit to mete out, at the very least for incomprehensible stupidity.

By the way, a four-game suspension is a joke. If you use PEDs, a full season on the sidelines without pay would certainly act as a big-time deterrent. Do it again and face the prospect of a lifetime suspension. It's supposed to be a level playing field. Sadly, it hardly ever is, and probably never has been.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  May 28, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  NFL , NFL Rules , Roger Goodell , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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