Walker says Castillo was steroid-free in college

Northwestern defensive tackle Luis Castillo, who has improved his draft stock to possible first-round status, has acknowledged in a letter to all 32 NFL teams that he took a steroid following the 2004 season.

Sources said Castillo tested positive at February's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis for androstenedione, which is now classified as a steroid by the NFL and by federal agencies.

In his letter, Castillo told teams that he had taken the steroid as a "short cut" in his frustrating road to recovery from an elbow injury suffered in Northwestern's 2004 season-opening game against TCU. Castillo played the entire season with the injury and earned some All-America honors.

Under league policy, Castillo is now subject to reasonable cause testing for the duration of his potential professional career, with a maximum of 24 tests per year as directed by Dr. John Lombardo, the NFL's medical advisor for steroids and performance-enhancement drugs.

Castillo provided all teams with his own medical history of drug testing at Northwestern, which showed he had never had a previous positive result for steroids.

Northwestern coach Randy Walker also wrote an accompanying letter, saying that Castillo had never tested positive and was a model student-athlete who "not only talked the talk, he walked the walk." Walker praised Castillo's outstanding performance despite the painful elbow injury.

Two NFL general managers who acknowledged receiving the letter did not believe Castillo's draft status would be damaged by the positive result.

"Really, he's a great kid, and the fact he's been forthcoming about this rather than come up with some phony excuse like a lot of guys do is going to help his cause," said one GM on the condition of anonymity. "Providing his testing records is another plus."

Castillo told teams he used a performance-enhancing drug – reportedly andro – in order to perform well at the scouting combine, where more than 300 invited players are evaluated through a battery of tests in preparation for the April 23-24 draft. The 6-2¾, 305-pound lineman performed 32 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, ran 4.79 in the 40 and had a 34½-inch vertical jump – all impressive marks. The Academic All-American also scored a very high 37 on the Wonderlic test.

"If his performance on the field didn't match up [with his combine performance], you'd have to wonder in light of the positive [steroid] test," said the GM. "But he's a very active, strong, productive player on film."

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has projected Castillo being the 55th player taken overall by the Buffalo Bills. Scouts Inc. has him rated as a mid-to-late second-round choice. However, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli recently rated Castillo as a possible late first-round or early second-round choice. One of the GMs agreed with that assessment. NFL Draft Scout.com projects Castillo to go as high as the 17th overall player in the first round.

Castillo's agent, Rick Smith, has confirmed that the letter was sent Wednesday and believes his client has not damaged his credibility, saying, "We've spoken to all 32 teams and we're comfortable with where we're at on this issue."

Northwestern athletic director Mark Murphy, also a former safety for the Washington Redskins, released the following statement: "For several years, Northwestern has had a comprehensive educational, preventive testing policy for alcohol and other drugs. Rare positive tests are dealt with quickly through education, counseling and mandatory suspension. Our testing policy far exceeds guidelines established by the NCAA."

Chris Mortensen covers football for ESPN.