If Santana Moss used, then he cheated, too

By Thomas Boswell
Friday, May 21, 2010

Historically, due process is not a concept that comes naturally to those at the top of the NFL pecking order. Since the 1960s when stars Paul Hornung and Alex Karras confessed their gambling sins to Pete Rozelle and were suspended from football, the normal chat between a commissioner and a player who had a hint of malfeasance was: "Confess and you might live to see the next sunrise."

These meetings, such as when Rodney Harrison admitted to Roger Goodell in 2007 that he had used HGH and was suspended for four games, are like a private audience with the Godfather, but not as friendly. So you might not want to plan on using Santana Moss at wide receiver in your fantasy football league this September.

On Tuesday, Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, the fellow who did the blood spinning for Tiger Woods's knee surgery rehab, was charged with smuggling and distributing human growth hormone. According to two sources familiar with the investigation, Moss was among the athletes treated by Galea. More worrisome, a source has told The Post that Moss was the player whom Galea's medical assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was on her way to meet in Washington when she was arrested at the U.S.-Canada border last September with HGH, syringes and other medical equipment in her vehicle.

I give Moss the benefit of the doubt and then some -- because I suspect that the NFL will give him precious little.

Pro football picks and chooses its spots to seek the moral high road. But it desperately wants to convey the impression it is tough on performance-enhancing drugs. It's as if to say, "Please don't get suspicious, just because every decade more players look like they could bench-press your house."

The NFL isn't like baseball, where, when a player gets in hot water, the union sends lawyers, guns and money. Before a baseball commissioner can lock his eyes on a possible miscreant, the union has prepared enough paperwork to fill a Brinks truck.

With its tabby-cat union, the NFL has no such problems. The league just calls every badge in the book and asks, "What have you got on this guy?" Then, if it's bad enough, the commissioner calls you in and says: "We know everything. Give up."

The NFL's track record is that if it thinks any discipline is necessary, it will probably happen fairly fast. The NFL public relations motto should be: Turn today's bad news into tomorrow's old news.

At this point, federal prosecutors reportedly do not intend to file criminal charges against athletes with connections to Galea. So, comparatively speaking, Moss has little to worry about -- perhaps a four-game suspension like Harrison's, at worst.

However, if it turns out that Moss received HGH from Galea -- still a big "if" -- we will not need to have a lengthy ethical debate about whether or not that makes him a cheater.

It does.

Moss has had the misfortune to become part of the pharmacology and ethics debate on the same day Floyd Landis, whom I believe rides a bike, has accused various other spectacularly conditioned (but really skinny) cyclists of using PEDs. The day I express an opinion on cycling, please throw me out a window. However, I do know cheating when I see it.

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