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Question of Substance

The indictments last week of New York Giant guard Eric Moore and
Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive end Mark Duckens on federal charges
that they possessed and intended to distribute anabolic steroids and
human growth hormone (HGH) focus new attention on the use of these
bodybuilding substances in the NFL. Moore and Duckens pleaded not
guilty, but Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Atlanta,
where the indictments were handed down, said that large quantities of
steroids and HGH were seized from the pair and that arrests of other
NFL players were possible.
The NFL tried to characterize the indictments as an aberration,
claiming that it has administered 18,000 tests for steroids over the
last three years, with no more than five positives. But HGH can't be
detected through testing, and players can beat steroid tests with
masking agents or by getting off the drugs in time. Also, there is
reason to question the league's testing procedures. ''I had one
player call me who was frantic,'' says Tony Fitton, a convicted
steroid trafficker who now advises athletes on steroid alternatives.
''He had a test that week, and he had used Winstrol V ((an anabolic
steroid)). He turned out negative. It makes you wonder about the
validity of the testing.''
The difficulty of combating the use of performance-enhancing drugs
in sports was underscored by a recent estimate by Prince Alexandre de
Merode, president of the International Olympic Committee's medical
commission, that while only five of the 10,274 athletes at the
Barcelona Olympics tested positive, 10% of the participants in the
Games use steroids or other performance-enhancing substances. De
Merode's 10% figure -- and even that may be low -- would mean that
the IOC is catching barely one of every 200 drug users. There's no
reason to think the NFL is doing much better.