THE NFL AND STEROIDS
Last week Atlanta Falcon guard Bill Fralic told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the dangers of anabolic steroids that he estimates that "probably about 75 percent" of NFL linemen, linebackers and tight ends use the strength-building drugs. Former NFL guard Steve Courson, who believes that heavy steroid use contributed to a coronary condition that will force him to undergo a heart transplant (SI, April 3), testified that he believes that half the players at line-of-scrimmage positions in the league take steroids. Even NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle admitted that the figures disclosed by his office for positive preseason steroid tests in 1987 and '88—6% to 7%—are probably lower than the actual rate of steroid use among players.
The NFL faces at least two obstacles in combating steroids. One is the NFL Players Association. Rozelle testified that periodic, unscheduled testing of players is "the most effective possible deterrent" to steroid use, and he may be right. But the league cannot conduct such tests because of opposition from the NFLPA. A 1986 arbitrator's ruling in favor of the NFLPA limits the league to a single, announced test during training camp; additional tests are permitted only in cases in which reasonable cause exists. In reality, of course, any steroid user with a brain and a calendar can get himself off the drugs in time to pass a steroid test he knows about months in advance. The NFL's stern new penalties for players testing positive for steroids—a 30-day suspension for the first offense, banishment for the rest of the season for the second—won't do much good if the vast majority of steroid users beat the annual test.
A second hurdle confronting the NFL is the apparent unwillingness of some teams to take steroid use seriously. Pitt defensive end Burt Grossman and college teammate Tom Ricketts, an offensive tackle, reportedly tested positive for steroids at the NFL scouting combine in February, yet both players were drafted in the first round—Grossman by San Diego and Ricketts by Pittsburgh. Their new teams admitted knowing before the draft that the two had tested positive but accepted the players' word that they were not anabolic steroid users. Grossman said he had received injections of cortisone, a nonanabolic steroid, for an ankle injury, and Ricketts said he had been given cortisone to treat an injured foot.
Drug-testing experts told SI that cortisone use should not cause a player to test positive for anabolic steroids. If in these cases it did, the NFL should reexamine its testing methods. If, on the other hand, Grossman and Ricketts did use anabolic steroids, medical reasons are not an excuse for doing so. The NFL Physicians Society is on record as stating that there are "no legitimate medical purposes [for which] to prescribe anabolic steroids to NFL players." The league itself has forbidden players from using steroids "in any quantity for any purpose."
The NFL still has to prove that it means business about cracking down on steroid use. As for the NFLPA, it was put on the spot last week for having neglected the issue for too long. In 1985 both NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw and then president Tom Condon told SI that anabolic steroids were not a problem in the NFL. When asked by Judiciary Committee chairman Joseph Biden to defend that assessment, Upshaw replied, "I said that? You're sure?" SI is quite sure that Upshaw said it. Upshaw's contention that NFL players overwhelmingly oppose random steroid testing was also called into question last week. Fralic said that in a survey he conducted among teammates in 1986, 80% of them were willing to submit to random testing.
A TIME TO SHINE
If your hairline is ebbing but your golf swing flowing, we have just the event for you. It's the first Bald Golfers of America Tournament, a two-day, 36-hole best-ball event scheduled for next month in Palm Beach, Fla. "We're combing the nation for players," says the tournanament's balding founder, Lew Wilson, president of Regal Retreats, a Tallahassee, Fla., company that organizes golf outings.
Participants must be at least half bald—borderline cases will be asked to wear rubberized, flesh-tone skullcaps—and-be willing to pay the hair-raising tab of $3,000 per person, which covers three nights' lodging, food and greens fees. Celebrity invitees include such shiny-headed pros as Sam Snead, Miller Barber, Roberto De Vincenzo and, of course, Jerry Pate.
THE FIRST BASEWOMAN
If you were wondering, St. Mary's College first baseman Julie Croteau, the first woman ever to play NCAA baseball (SI, March 27), finished her freshman season with 10 hits in 45 at bats for a .222 average. She made five errors in 92 chances as St. Mary's, a Division III school in St. Mary's City, Md., struggled to a 1-20-1 record. "Julie was tough." says St. Mary's coach Hal Willard. "She went 2 for 3 against Longwood, a Division II team, and several opposing coaches said there was no doubt she was a legitimate Division III player."