People from other sports sectors are quick to vilify the NFL, its players, the commissioner’s office and its fans for the lack of outcry against what seems to be widespread PED use in the league. No one is condoning the use of PEDs; people simply understand it may be more of an occupational hazard in a gruesome and violent game that the NFL has become over time.
When judging the use of PEDs in the NFL, one would be ill advised to compare it to another sport with PED problems. The MLB, Cycling and Track and Field are just a few sports where its participants have been caught up in scandal over PED use. The distinguishing factor that separates the NFL from these sports is for the most part, the players associated with PED use have not attained Hall of Fame or legendary status in the sport.
Now, we all remember Baltimore Ravens icon Ray Lewis being associated with Deer Antler spray, but never tested positive for a banned substance and vehemently denies ever using the product. Former San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots star Rodney Harrison openly admitted to using HGH during the twilight of his career as well. Both Deer Antler and HGH are recovery substances, not muscle producers or muscle enhancers. These drugs are not anabolic steroids; they don’t elevate your level of production, they simply aid in the recovery process. Football is a game of attrition, a violent game where its participants are more susceptible to injury. Subsequently, these drugs are given more tolerance by the general public.
There is a major difference between taking HGH, amphetamines and deer antler extract versus using steriods. The NFL needs to release what people are testing positive for first and foremost, to clear up any discrepancies or misconceptions the public may have about a positive PED test. Testing positive for adderall is not the same as testing positive for an anabolic steroid, and there has to be a clear distinction. Some college students who stay up late studying for finals use adderall, that’s on the banned substance list. Surely, adderall and anabolic steriods don’t deserve the same amount of punishment.
Everyone remembers when Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was suspended. There was backlash about him winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. They did a re-vote and it wasn’t a big deal apparently, because he won the re-vote as well.
The MLB is a game defined by numbers, numbers known substance abusers tainted. Barry Bonds, Mark Maguire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Raphael Palmeiro all put an assault on the record books aided by PEDs. These are the best players of our generation, a generation that can only look to Ken Griffey Jr. as a great power hitter during this era not connected to PED use. Ryan Braun being the latest former MVP to fall from ascendancy due to PED use. Between Balco and Biogenesis, the integrity of the MLB has taken a major hit, a hit the NFL has evaded thus far.
Current Chicago Bears stalwart Julius Peppers, tested positive in 2003 for a banned substance on the PED list in his second season with the Carolina Panthers. He is the only person who will be remotely considered for the Hall of Fame who has actually tested positive for a banned PED substance. I’m almost positive it won’t be a decisive factor on whether he gets in or not.
There aren’t any Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones or Ben Johnson-type cases in the NFL that have sullied the game’s reputation. These are all people who lied on camera, later to be investigated and caught. They were media darlings, reaching superstar status only to inconceivably fall from grace. This is a distinction that the public has remained conscientious of; the faces of the NFL have remained credible while others have fallen.
Many have suspected Minnesota Vikings stud Adrian Peterson of PED use. Now if that were to come to fruition, that would be a completely different circumstance. Would the general public really care if Peterson used HGH to aid in his recovery after major knee surgery?
Honestly, until a face of the NFL tests positive for PEDs such as anabolic steriods — or anything with similar effect — we can’t truly say there is an issue of integrity in the sport.