By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 7, 2006
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Sept. 6 -- Washington Redskins offensive lineman Jon Jansen said that "maybe 15, 20 percent" of NFL players use performance-enhancing drugs and that their use is "on the rise now" because of human growth hormone treatments that are undetectable by the NFL's testing method.
"You know guys that are doing it," Jansen said on the HBO program "Costas Now" that aired Wednesday night. "You know that they're cheating and you know that they're trying to get by with something."
Earlier in the day, Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said that the sport's steroid-testing program cannot be strengthened significantly until scientific advancements allow it.
"I don't see any reason to change our program at all," Upshaw said. "If you have someone who's cheating, we'll catch him if the science allows it. We test enough. We test for everything we can test for, and we're always adding substances to the banned list when the science allows us to test for them. The only way to improve the drug program is to improve the science of the testing. When that happens, call me."
Upshaw's comments came on the same day that Roger Goodell said during his first news conference as NFL commissioner that he intends to explore possible measures for strengthening the steroid program, perhaps including more frequent testing of players and the addition of substances to the league's list of banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Goodell said he had opened discussions with Upshaw on the issue. But Upshaw, speaking earlier in the day, said he'd been given no indication in his conversations with NFL officials that the league wanted to make any major alterations to the steroid program at this point.
"I've never heard that from them," Upshaw said in a telephone interview.
Goodell, meeting with reporters at Giants Stadium after attending the New York Giants' practice, did not specify what changes to the steroid program he favors, if any. But Goodell, who was elected by the sport's 32 team owners last month to succeed the retiring Paul Tagliabue and took office Friday, said he was talking to Upshaw about a variety of issues related to the program.
"I think he shares my commitment that we're going to do everything possible to have the best possible drug program and to address these issues as quickly as we can using the technology and the science that exists," Goodell said. "Our program right now is an outstanding program. But it can always be improved, and that's how we're going to approach it."
Goodell said he had one conversation with Upshaw in which the two discussed the frequency of testing and concluded that the number of tests should be increased only if they believed such a step would bolster the effectiveness of the program. Currently, all NFL players are tested for performance-enhancing drugs at least once per year, usually in training camp. Players are subject to random testing during the season and up to six tests each during the offseason. A first positive test results in the offending player being suspended four games without pay. A second positive test brings an eight-game suspension, and a third positive test results in a one-year suspension.
The NFL suspended Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman John Welbourn on Wednesday, reportedly for violating the policy on performance-enhancing drugs, even through he retired during the offseason.
Members of Congress regularly have called the NFL's testing program the best in professional sports but also have said there's room for improvement. Upshaw and Tagliabue usually echoed that theme, acknowledging that the program had one unavoidable loophole because no reliable urine test for human growth hormone exists. Upshaw has said he would not favor blood-testing of players for human growth hormone.
Goodell said Wednesday he has no indication that the NFL has an extensive problem with the use of human growth hormone among its players but he thinks it's important for the league to be diligent in continuing to support research aimed at developing a reliable urine test for it.
Former NFL defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said on the HBO show "Costas Now," broadcast Wednesday night, that he believes at least 30 percent of the players in the league use human growth hormone.
Jansen said on the show he thinks the use of performance-enhancing drugs by NFL players is on the rise, and added: "When there's that much money involved in sports and people want the money, the fame, there's going to be people that try and get away with shortcuts and right now that's possible to do."
League officials told the New York Times in Wednesday's editions that the league might seek modifications to the program as part of its annual review with the players' union of drug-testing policies. Goodell said Wednesday that changes to the program are made almost annually, and Upshaw said, "We do our annual reviews all the time. This would be no different."
Goodell also said that he won't dismiss Bryant Gumbel as an announcer on the league-owned NFL Network. Tagliabue had said that Gumbel's status with the network would be up for discussion after the veteran broadcaster recently made highly critical remarks about the league, the owners and Upshaw during an HBO show. Goodell said he'd met with Gumbel last week to express his concerns but had decided against firing Gumbel.