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I live my life in the fast lane, and I always have. I drink too much. I party too much. I drive too fast, and I'm hell on quarterbacks.
When Giants Linebacker Lawrence Taylor was suspended for 30 days by the NFL on Aug. 29 for failing to pass a routine training-camp drug test, Taylor, his family, his agents, the New York front office, Giants coach Bill Parcells and, yes, even the league were all at last forced to admit he has a substance-abuse problem, one that dates back at least to the 1985 season.
Reckless and loaded with bravado, Taylor, 29, a seven-time All-Pro and the NFL's MVP in 1986, had lived under the delusion that he was as invincible off the field as he was on it. No one could terrorize quarterbacks the way he could. No one in history had made more sacks. If offensive linemen couldn't find a way to stop him, how could anything else? LT was bulletproof.
When it came to rules, Taylor made his own. He mocked the Giants' off-season training programs, refusing to lift weights or run. In his autobiography he wrote that he cheated on random drug tests administered by the Giants in 1985. He sometimes beat the tests, he related, by substituting a teammate's urine, which he kept in a small aspirin bottle in his athletic supporter. But still he was caught that same year while attending minicamp.
"When I read that, I figured he was in deep trouble," says Dr. Allan Lans, a New York City psychiatrist. "I knew it was only a matter of time before we'd hear from him again. The big question is: Why didn't it set off alarms in those around him?"
Sure enough, last month Taylor tested positive again, and because it was his second offense, he was banned from playing for a month. He has missed the Giants' first two regular-season games and will miss two more. Those four games, it turns out, are the most difficult part of New York's schedule. Last week Taylor began treatment in an outpatient program in the New York City area, reportedly at the Giants' expense.
Taylor's suspension touched off a wave of resentment throughout the league, with several players and coaches saying flat-out that it wasn't harsh enough. "For a player to tell the world he's addicted and get away with it, then write a book on top of that, well, that can only happen in New York, not Chicago," said Bears wide receiver Dennis McKinnon.
Many players feel that it's unfair for other second-time offenders to be given a sentence identical to Taylor's. That implies their drug problems are as serious as the one LT talked about in his book. "These players will be carrying this reputation with them for the rest of their lives," says former 49er Keith Fahnhorst. "What if the guy didn't have a severe problem? He will still be handicapped by the label for the rest of his career."