For almost a month, the National Football league has been mired in controversy over illegal use of drugs by players. Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley says he's fed up with it.
"It stinks," says Moseley. "It's the biggest farce I've ever seen. The vast majority of NFL ballplayers are decent, clean, hard-working guys, but now the public has the idea that every NFL player goes off in a corner and takes pills, snorts dope and shoots up. I get really hot about it."
Says Redskins punt and kickoff returner Mike Nelms: "I'm not shocked. It's a serious problem in life, not just in sports. It reaches all professions. I'm sure it's in the NFL as it is in other walks of life."
Still, Nelms says he would have reservations about any kind of mandatory urinalysis program to screen players for drug use. "I would think it would be an invasion of privacy, but there are a lot of other things to be considered so I guess I don't really have an opinion."
Redskins linebacker Brad Dusek, who will begin his 10th year in the NFL this fall, says he's never had any firsthand knowledge of a player's addiction to drugs. "I'm not naive enough to think that people don't use them, but I don't know of any," said Dusek. "That's not to say there aren't any."
The drug story has dominated NFL news since June, when Sports Illustrated published a first-person account of drug troubles experienced by Don Reese, a former defensive lineman with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers..
Estimates of players involved with illegal drugs have ranged as high as 40 to 50 percent. San Diego Charger running back Chuck Muncie told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, States-Item that he had a $200-a-week cocaine habit while playing for the Saints and that on two occasions he purchased cocaine from teammate Mike Strachan, who is under indictment for conspiracy and distribution of cocaine.
The newspaper also quoted unnamed sources as saying a dozen Saints, including George Rogers, the NFL's leading rusher last year, were under investigation for having purchased cocaine from Strachan. In New York, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle reversed his position that use of illegal drugs in the NFL is not a major problem, saying it might be more of a problem in the NFL than in society as a whole.
Although no members of the Redskins have been linked to the drug controversy, many are concerned that it has hurt the image of all football players. Others fear that it has impaired their credibility in such volunteer activities as counseling young people against drug and alcohol abuse. Still others say the situation in the NFL is only a reflection of a problem that exists throughout society.
Most of the 10 Redskins interviewed said they are unenthusiastic about the idea of a mandatory urinalysis program to screen players for drug use, although many said they'd go along with the idea if they were sure it was necessary.
Says middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz: "I don't like being known as part of a drug culture. I don't like people thinking I am associated with drug addicts. I'm sure there are people with problems, but I can only speak for the Redskins, and I certainly haven't seen any. I'm tired of reading about it. A lot of people are speaking about things they really don't know about. Some people get into a clique where everybody does it, and then they assume everybody else does it too."
"Don Reese is an individual problem," says offensive guard Russ Grimm. "Chuck Muncie is an individual problem. People shouldn't associate things like that with everybody in the league. I haven't run across a problem yet. We've got a good bunch of guys on the Redskins. I think if somebody did have a problem, somebody would say something or do something about it. Drugs are like anything else. You can find them in the streets. Professional athletes are in the limelight so I think it's been blown a little out of proportion."
Running back Terry Metcalf agrees. Last month Canadian wire services quoted him in a widely distributed story as saying up to 50 percent of the players in the Canadian Football League, where he played for three years, had used drugs and that the same percentage applied for the NFL.
"What I said," said Metcalf, "was that 50 percent may have experimented, but I really have no way of knowing. I can't say there is not a problem, but I have never done a survey."
Metcalf says he'd have no problem with a requirement that players submit to urinalysis. "Whatever they want to do is fine with me," he said.
Safety Tony Peters also says maybe 50 percent of the players may have experimented with drugs. "But I wouldn't say that many players have a problem," Peters said. "From what I've read and heard, there probably is a problem, but as far as speaking percentages, I couldn't say. I wouldn't think the Redskins had a problem in that area. The Redskins have some pretty good guys on the team and they are all intelligent enough to take care of themselves."
But Peters has qualms about mandatory urinalysis. "I think it would be a bad idea because it would be an infringement on a person's private affairs," he said. "But if it really came down to it, it really wouldn't matter that much to me."
Defensive end Dexter Manley says Reese's story in Sports Illustrated "is ruining the reputations of us guys. He's not even playing. I don't think they should publicize it so much because kids look up to athletes. Like George Rogers. He's an example kids really look up to. They will say, 'If he does it why shouldn't I?'
"I feel the guys who are doing it are taking a chance on shortening their careers. This guy Don Reese, I think he really exaggerated. There is no way a guy is going to come up on the sidelines at practice and sell cocaine. I don't have to take nothing to get fired up and want to go out and play. I get a natural high. That's just within me."
He has mixed feelings about being required to undergo urinalysis testing for drug use, Manley says. "If that is the way to clean up the drug problem in the NFL, then that would be fine. But why just pick out the athletes? Why not test everybody in society?"
Like Manley, kicker Moseley is concerned about the effect of the controversy on young people. "As a professional athlete, you always have to look over your shoulder and see how the young people are emulating what you're doing. I've been going out two or three nights a week talking to young people about avoiding drugs and alcohol. There are countless guys in the NFL who care about their image. Now, nobody will ever believe that we're not all drug addicts or alcoholics."