The Charlotte Observer’s Charles Chandler wrote a devastating expose this Sunday (http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/sports/football/nfl/carolina_panthers/15371194.htm) about steroid use among several members of the 2004 Carolina Panthers’ team that came within a hair of winning the Super Bowl. Because of a case involving Dr. James Shortt, who was recently sentenced to a year in prison for illegally prescribing steroids and HGH to some of those players, court documents have revealed in unprecedented detail the kinds of usage involved.
In the opening paragraphs, Chandler writes:
“Medical records made public in court documents reveal that players were given multiple refillable steroid prescriptions and that some suffered unwanted, appearance-altering symptoms, prompting more prescriptions.
The medical records also raise questions that undercut the National Football League's claim that its steroids testing program is the best in pro sports.
"Several of them were using disturbing, particularly alarmingly high amounts with high dosages for long durations -- some in combinations," said steroids expert Dr. Gary Wadler, who reviewed the medical records and prepared a report for the U.S. Attorney's Office. "This wasn't just a passing flirtation with these prohibited substances…
Three of the five starting offensive linemen from the Panthers' February 2004 Super Bowl team -- guard Kevin Donnalley, center Jeff Mitchell and tackle Todd Steussie -- were in the report. Another member of that team, practice squad lineman Louis Williams, former Carolina tight end Wesley Walls and former University of South Carolina and NFL defensive lineman Henry Taylor were the other players.”
Dan Patrick said on his show yesterday that if this were a baseball story, it would be a major national story and lead off sports center. I’ve harped on this before, but it’s reaching the point of absurdity that the NFL continues to get the pass that it does on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs. Patrick recounted that long-time NFL writer Chris Mortensen recently called the NFL’s drug testing policy the best in sports. It’s becoming increasingly evident that this is untrue, but it’s worth contemplating whether one could even imagine a baseball beat writer sayingsuch complimentary things about baseball. Could you imagine the scandal that would ensue if court documents revealed that three starters on a recent World Series team had been involved in an intensive illegal drug regimen before and during that World Series?
The contemporary culture of sports commentary insists that the NFL is the nearly perfectly run business, with money flowing freely to wealthy owners, regardless of their personal incompetence and players knowing their proper place and (mostly) willingly sacrificing life and limb for the greater glory of the NFL. In this atmosphere, and aside from criticisms of player transgressions (see: Terrell Owens), nary a critical word is to be uttered about the greatness that is the NFL. As I commented last week, this is one reason why Bryant Gumbel’s recent remarks stirred up such a ruckus.
But, if scribes and commentators insist that cheating is tainting sports to an unprecedented degree, it’s hard to view their complaints as credible until they get serious about football’s obvious problems. The football commentariat’s collective failure to do so calls into question whatever pretenses they have to be objective journalists, as opposed to propagandists.
It also affirms my refusal to take on the T.O. “story.” To paraphrase Churchill (sort of) – never before have so many said so much about so little.