Anabolic steroids, a synthetic version of the male sex hormone testosterone, were created in the 1930s. In World War II, the Germans used them on their soldiers and prisoners and a decade later European weightlifters discovered the benefits of increased training and enhanced musculature.
Steroids probably infiltrated the NFL in the 1960s, but by the '70s they were a standard part of the training regimen for players along the line. While there were questions about the dangers of steroids use, it wasn't until 1993 when they became illegal, as part of a collective bargaining agreement with the players.
The policy, amended a number of times, now includes ephedra and many other substances. Current players are randomly tested at least once each season. The first positive test brings a four-game suspension, a second costs a player six games and a third means a minimum suspension of one year.
Seattle wide receiver Koren Robinson, Chargers backup fullback Andrew Pinnock and Broncos wide receiver Adrian Madise were all suspended this season for four games after violating the league's policy against anabolic steroids and related substances.
The NFL's anti-steroid policy is the toughest in major sport; it may have prompted Major League Baseball to enact a policy after Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds were linked to the BALCO steroids scandal last year. Baseball recently announced a four-strike policy that featured a 10-day suspension for a first positive test, 30 days for a second and 60 days for a third. A fourth positive means a one-year suspension.
Like other world-class athletes, NFL players are aware of the properties of the designer steroid THG, whose existence became public in 2003. In November, four Oakland Raiders players -- linebacker Bill Romanowski, defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Chris Cooper and center Barret Robbins -- tested positive for THG, but since it was not among the NFL's banned substances they were not disciplined. The league retested existing samples from the players after they were subpoenaed to testify before a U.S. grand jury in the BALCO investigation.
After negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA, the three active players -- Romanowski had retired -- were all fined the equivalent of their salaries for three games.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Greg.Garber@espn3.com.