Pubdate: Sun, 19 May 2002
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Section: Sports
Copyright: 2002 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Jeff Miller (Miami Herald)


MIAMI - Our athletes are on drugs.

Read all about it.

Jose Canseco threatens to write a between-the-sheets book about all things 
evil in baseball, particularly steroid use.

Damon Stoudamire pleads not guilty to possessing marijuana, hoping a 
technicality erases the police claim that his home furnishings included a 
pound of pot.

The trainer for the New York Giants estimates 75 percent of last year's 
team used the now-banned ephedra.

Drug use is never a good thing to have in the sports pages. Too much 
reality mixed in with the box scores and horse racing results, too much 
additional bad publicity.

But there's something else to understand about reality, sports and bad 
publicity. And drugs. Our professional leagues, while campaigning against 
all types of abuse, while urging kids to crack books but not crack crack, 
are quietly helping their athletes avoid something worse than using drugs. 
That would be getting caught using drugs.

Management and the various players unions are working closely to ensure 
images aren't tarnished, even if the protection must be colored in a shade 
of blatant hypocrisy.

You see, many of these random drug tests are no more random than the 
arrival of your monthly telephone bill. Just last week, Dolphins officials 
informed their players of an upcoming test, being sure to provide ample 
time for, well, preparation.

This is not meant to suggest anything about any Dolphins player. This only 
is intended to provide a glimpse of how the system works throughout most 
major sports.

When the NBA reinstated marijuana testing a few years ago, league 
executives sent letters urging players who smoked pot to step forward and 
seek treatment . . . if they feared failing. The league also informed 
players when to expect the tests.

"They let us know about it, so it shouldn't be a problem," said John 
Wallace, then with the Knicks. "It's just a matter of doing what you've got 
to do to make sure that when the time comes you're right."

Among NFL players, the process has become a training-camp tradition. During 
a team's introductory meeting, the test dates are announced.

For players with clean records, this test is the only one that checks for 
drugs like marijuana and cocaine all season. During the year, there are 
random tests -- truly random -- for steroids.

Add to this the players who never leave home without their magic mixture, a 
concoction that, when consumed, flushes evidence out of the system.

At least the NFL and NBA have become more aggressive against steroids and 
other drugs that can increase performance but, ultimately, decrease life. 
But don't even attempt to figure out the drug-testing guidelines in Major 
League Baseball and the NHL, two entities that pretend their athletes are 
clean. Unless a player steps forward and seeks help, the policy is there is 
no policy.
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