Full Contact 6/12/06


Do you think he did it? Was Barry Bonds using steroids? Is baseball doing enough to stop their usage? Should the U.S. Congress flex its muscle and impose its values on Major League Baseball? What about the NFL and other sports? I could ask questions all day!

Before I get going, I want to be up front--I am not a fan of Barry Bonds in any way, shape or form. And, if he lied in any of these investigations, I encourage the wheels of justice to roll right over him.

In a previous column I spoke of a special place called, "Prima Donna Town." Well, Barry is the Mayor of that fantasy land and is not very high on my list. I also want to make it clear, I'm against setting any examples or doing something that would cause a child or teenager to do such a stupid thing, such as steroids.

When I entered the NFL, the drug testing policy didn't exist. I've visually seen usage and their effects before it was considered a no-no. In fact, I was in a meeting where a NFL head coach was encouraging a young player to "do whatever it took to get stronger." The player kept on explaining that he was going to move in town during the off-season and make the weight room a priority. After about the third time going back and forth with the exact same exchange, the coach said with additional zeal, "No, you don't understand, you need to do whatever it takes to get stronger!" The player, just finishing his second season, finally got the picture and the meeting ended. I don't know about you, but I just can't go a day without a good dose of plausible deniability.

The unique thing about the NFL's early days of drug testing, were the priorities, which surprised me. Steroids were an automatic suspension and they would randomly check throughout the season--not only for steroids, but the stuff that can help mask its presence. It was a computer that randomly selected the players to be tested. It was so random, that it would seem the players least likely to use them were the only ones being tested, i.e., the scrawny DB's and receivers.

Recreational drugs were tested only at the beginning of the year and, by the way; they would tell you the date it was going to happen. Needless to say, if you were still found dirty after knowing the exact date and time, you had a serious problem and were subjected to random tests. Regardless of the NFL's beginning shortfalls in its fight against steroids, the program works and steroids are out of the NFL.

Just like getting re-elected is the ultimate goal for politicians, it is the ultimate goal for a professional athlete to get another year in the "Bigs." The difference between the two, unlike the politicians, the athlete's longevity is based upon performance.

Speaking of performance, I hope no one believes that adding steroids to any athlete makes him a better player. An athlete is blessed with a gift to play at the professional level or he/she is not. Adding steroids to a normal mediocre athlete, only makes them a stronger, angrier, mediocre player. Imagine the results of adding a nitrous oxide performance system, like in the movie, "Fast and Furious," to your 1980 Pacer.  Adding power doesn't make your car ready to drive at Indy.

During one of my years with the Detroit Lions, we had a wide receiver in camp, who was featured on the "Amazing People" TV show. He was featured, racing and beating a race horse in a 60-yard dash; man was he fast! The problem was, he couldn't catch a cold, let alone a ball that was thrown to him. Another kid we had was the strongest on the bench press I've ever seen. It's too bad he couldn't get in a stance, and when he attempted to play he endangered himself as well as others in his falling radius.

So, regardless of all the latest medical breakthroughs, you still need to play the game. You still need to see that ball as it leaves the pitcher's hands.  You still need to time your swing. The QB still needs to read the defense and throw to the quick out pattern. The DT still needs to read the play and rush the passer. Adding juice to a truly blessed player, doesn't help in the above, it just makes him stronger and more aggressive. In professional sports, there is always someone faster and stronger; get used to it! But, if they can't play the game, it doesn't really matter what they take. For those occasions, a lot of coaches use the term, "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane."

Now if you add nitrous to an F-1 Ferrari, it's something cool to see on the track. The key being, the Ferrari and/or Bonds was a great machine before the alterations.

What we are really talking about is taking something that gives you a certain confidence on the field, which in turn gives you a belief that you elongate your career. So if that's the case, who is in the optimal position to decide if it should be outlawed within the sport or specific industry? When the politicians got involved, besides seeing "grandstanding" in action, my biggest question is why?

Mr. Politician, what's next on the list of "dangerous stuff" you think should be controlled? I haven't heard peep-one from the politicians, actors and TV newscasters who inject themselves with bacteria (Botchulism/Botox) to help them look younger, hence last longer on the screen. When John Kerry, miraculously, looked like a new man in middle of the last presidential election, I didn't hear a call for subcommittee hearings on the Botox abuse inside the Beltway.

For all of the people in the public eye, if they have a cool gig, they want it to last as long as it can. With that said, people do questionable stuff to give them that perceived edge, to keep their dream going. A few politicians get Botox, a few actors/newscasters get body augmentations and hair plugs, a few athletes take supplements that are not made for human consumption and Joan Rivers might have done it all.

OK, I'm finally here to my two cents and stepping down from the soapbox.  As for 'roids, ban them, but ban them hard! Keep the hypocritical politicians out of private business and let the leagues decide for themselves. The leagues, especially Major League Baseball, it's time to step up. Step up and make the penalty so severe that it only takes one person to burn at the stake, to teach generations to come.