By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 8, 2006
Several Washington Redskins agreed yesterday with teammate Jon Jansen's statement that NFL players are experimenting with human growth hormone, although some in the Redskins organization took exception with Jansen's contention that "maybe 15, 20 percent" of the league is taking some form of banned performance-enhancing substance.
Jansen made his claim in an interview with Bob Costas that aired on HBO's "Costas Now" on Wednesday night. Jansen, a seventh-year tackle and the longest-tenured player on the Redskins' roster, reiterated his stance yesterday when addressing the media, but he backed off his estimate of the percentage of players who are cheating. He said that his math was poor and that he meant to imply only that "a small number" of players were doing so.
Ten Redskins said they shared Jansen's sentiment.
"I wouldn't put anything past some guys," running back Ladell Betts said. "If you can get away with it, I'm sure some guys would try it. It's very competitive in this league, trying to keep your job, and once you bring the money into the equation you never know what somebody will do."
Center Casey Rabach said, "If there's ways for guys to cheat -- with as much money that's out there and the fame and glory that's possible -- guys are going to take shortcuts and try to cheat."
Jansen's comments on HBO were mentioned in a letter that Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking minority member of the House Government Reform Committee and a force behind last year's hearings on drug use in Major League Baseball, sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday, urging him to reexamine the league's drug policy.
"The combination of these reports about the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in the NFL shows that there are still important lessons to be learned for the league, including how the NFL drug testing program could have failed to detect this use of banned substances," the letter said. "I hope that the NFL will make every effort to learn these lessons and apply them to a new and more effective policy to rid the league of performance-enhancing drugs."
Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said in a statement: "We look forward to continuing our discussions with Congressman Waxman, Chairman [Thomas M.] Davis [R-Va.] and the committee staff. We are committed to continuing to have the best program in sports."
Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs praised the league's random-testing efforts, and said that he "could not imagine" players taking banned substances under those circumstances. "It doesn't make any sense," he said. Before the start of training camp, the Redskins bring in a specialist to brief the players on all types of supplements and drugs, both legal and banned, and the team reinforces that message whenever possible.
"What [the specialist] pointed out to everybody is that a large portion of those things are detectable," Gibbs said. "And every player here is responsible for what he puts in his body. I don't care what it is."
None of the Redskins interviewed yesterday said that he had tried HGH or known any NFL player using it. In the HBO interview, Jansen said that while recovering from a season-ending Achilles' injury in 2004, he was approached with the opportunity to take illegal substances to aid his recovery, but that he had declined.
Yesterday, Jansen said the incident occurred "outside Redskins Park" and was in no way related to the Redskins organization. Jansen declined to name anyone he suspected of using HGH, but said that after seven seasons in the league on a team with consistent roster turnover, players know who has a reputation for cheating.
"We haven't had that issue arise in our locker room, at least that I've been aware of," Jansen said yesterday. "Until you're aware of it, there's nothing you can do about it. Hopefully, I can raise a little bit of awareness among the league, among the guys."
Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine who has spent 34 years in the organization, said he was troubled by Jansen's estimate of the percentage of usage.
"What's Jon's experience been? He's only played for the Washington Redskins," Tyer said. "I don't know who he's talking about. In fact, I asked him that question today, and he just grinned and didn't have an answer. I have no idea who is taking what. You just don't know. Can you suspect? Yeah, you can suspect. I'm not so naive as to say no one has tried it, but I have no way of saying if it's 5 percent or 50 percent.
"I'm a league guy, and I think we have an excellent drug program. Can we get better at some point when the technology is there and it's good and reliable? Then, yeah, we should test for it. It's kind of open-ended. I want to see it get better and better. I've been in the league since 1971; the drug program started in '72 or '73 with the prescription drug program, and it's evolved to what it is today, and the longer I'm here the better it gets."
The timing of Jansen's comments surprised some teammates, who were preparing for the regular season opener Monday against Minnesota. Jansen said the interview was taped a month ago. Others questioned his estimate that roughly a fifth of the league's players were using substances. "How can you say that?" said one member of the organization who requested anonymity. "What are you basing that on? Twenty percent, that's like throwing 10 guys in this locker room under the bus."
Jansen, who is the team's NFL Players Association representative, recanted his numerical estimate and said that his aim is solely to help provoke a dialogue among players and league officials, so that HGH is at the forefront should accurate testing become available. Such testing would be subject to negotiation between the NFL and NFLPA, and, during his first news conference as commissioner Wednesday, Goodell said he is seeking to beef up the current steroid policy and add substances to the banned list. Jansen, meantime, said he will remain proactive on the matter, hoping to increase knowledge of the consequences and health risks tied to these substances.
"If I've got to be the guy that steps up and says, 'Hey, this is something we have to address,' then so be it," Jansen said. "That's the position I've taken on the team, and it's going to be the position I'm going to take whenever I'm asked about it."
Staff writers Howard Bryant and Mark Maske contributed to this report.