Outside The Lines - Painful Temptation of Steroids
Bob Ley, host - Didn't we just see the state of the art in drug
testing and drug cheating? The Sydney Olympics with aggressive
scientists, the first Olympic games in 52 years without a track and field
world record, dozens of athletes caught either during or prior to Sydney
for an array of substances in that ever-spiraling cops and robbers game
between testers and cheaters.
So steroids are almost retro. But they're making a comeback.
Research is suggesting that their use among U.S. teenagers of both genders
has grown in the past decade. Arrests for steroid smuggling and
trafficking have never been lower.
Meanwhile, in football, the premium on size is appropriately
larger than ever. Back in 1969, the national championship Texas Longhorns
had an offensive line averaging 213 pounds. The figures for this year's
Orange Bowl teams - Oklahoma 289 pounds, Florida State 315 pounds.
Now we do not suggest in any way the growth in size for these
players is related to steroids. But simply, the bar on bigger and
stronger is raised constantly in college football, that reality colliding
with a willing player and all-too-available drugs, the subject of this
report by ESPN.com's Tom Farrey.
Tom Farrey, ESPN.com correspondent - In the mid-1990s, the University of Texas at El Paso had a really bad team.
Ryan Pyle, former college football player - This was signing day, '95.
Farrey - Ryan Pyle, an all-state prospect from Houston was going
to change all that. But UTEP football ended up changing him.
Farrey - What's this?
Pyle - It's my NCAA drug testing form.
Farrey - Why do you keep this thing in there?
Pyle - Because as a reminder what you shouldn't let take over your
Farrey - Four years ago, as a red shirt freshman
tight end, Pyle tested positive for anabolic steroids.
Pyle - Some people say when you're out there in the jungle, you do
what you've got to do. But that's kind of the way it was looked at.
But I think sitting there in the bathroom with a syringe in the
counter and it kind of being that way - not really that way of living -
but doing that, and then on the other side was I guess everything I was
taught growing up and all my beliefs and what was right and what was
wrong. And actually, for an 18-year-old kid 1,000 miles away from home,
it was actually a real scary thing for something to be so important. I
think that's what people don't understand.
Farrey - El Paso is a unique location for college
football. Where else would you find an ad in the end zone for the U.S.
Directly across from the Sun Bowl is Juarez, Mexico, where Ryan Pyle obtained steroids from a veterinary pharmacy.
Pyle - That blows me away to this day that I put something in my
body that's made for a horse.
Farrey - A normal human male has a testosterone to epitestosterone
ratio of one-to-one. Pyle had a ratio of 36-to-one.
He was not the only UTEP player caught with steroids. Starting
quarterback John Rayborn (ph) tested positive for the steroid clambuterol
(ph), a banned substance.
So how many guys on the team would you say were on
Pyle - I'd say at any given time, there were probably 10 to 15
Farrey - Ten to 15 guys?
Pyle - Yeah, probably 10 to 15 guys. I don't know if it was
really hard core, but mixed with something. No matter what it was, some
type of enhancing substance. Now I know for a fact those numbers would
double during the summer months because there was no NCAA testing during
the summer months.
Farrey - You might think that a team's coaching staff
would be aware of this kind of widespread drug use. Pyle's former coach
Charlie BaiLey declined to talk to OUTSIDE THE LINES on camera, but denied
that he turned a blind eye to steroid use on his UTEP teams.
Pyle - To my recollection, I don't even think anyone ever said,
"Hey, don't do steroids. They're bad. Don't do this, you'll get caught,"
or, "Don't do this, it's not what we believe in." There's no talk of it.
There's no doctor. There's no coach coming out and saying that
this is bad.
Bob Stull, Athletic Director, Univ. of Texas-El Paso - Charlie certainly was very intolerant of any type of activity, drug or otherwise. Now I don't think - I'm not sure again, I don't think in 1995,
'96, '97 when Ryan was there, I don't think there was a real good program
in place, OK?
Farrey - For his arrival at UTEP in 1998, Stull introduced
programs to educate players about steroids. His new coach, Gary Nord,
says he talks to his players every two weeks about steroids. But Stull
says steroids are not the primary drug problem in college football.
Stull - Quite frankly, in our business, we're much more concerned
with alcohol abuse, marijuana, cocaine. That to us is much more
Farrey - And that opinion is reflected in UTEP's in-house drug
testing program, which is distinct from the NCAA's testing program.
Kevin Hatcher, Asst. Athletic Dir., Compliance Dept., Univ. of Texas-El Paso - We test the kids four times a year, two times a semester. And we test them for street drugs.
Farrey - Not steroids.
Hatcher - No, we do not test for steroids. We have good kids
here. And we know that they're not using steroids.
Farrey - But how do you know that if you're not testing for
Hatcher - Well, the NCAA tests for steroids.
Farrey - And that's how Pyle was busted. But even
with that, there's a decent chance a player will be tested no more than a
couple of times during his college career. And players believe they can
beat those tests as well.
Pyle - I've seen - there were reverse catheters, which is they get
someone else to urinate for them and then put that back into, definitely
not professional medically, but get it put back into their bladder so that
they can pass the test. I just don't think enough people are tested. The
right measures aren't taken because a steroid test is very, very
Stull - The schools just don't have the money to test for it
because it's about $100 to test for steroid use.
Farrey - Some schools give steroid tests on their own on a
reasonable cause basis. UTEP, for instance, tested three football players
this year because Coach Nord suspected them of steroid use.
Gary Nord, head football coach, Univ. of Texas-El Paso - Thank goodness they turned out negative. But we are on top of it.
Stull - We do the education. We do the testing. And based on
those two things, on the testing alone, would indicate that there is
virtually no one really doing it.
Pyle - People don't realize that it is a problem. People think of
it, oh, well, my kid can't get steroids, or my kid wouldn't do that. But
it is, it's out there. I think that people need to wake up.
Farrey - Football means that much to some players.
Pyle - The first time I played football. It was that important to
me that I chose that. I chose to pick that up and put that in my body,
which I regret almost every day of my life.
When a kid who's 18 years old chooses that, I think there's a
problem. There's a problem with the whole system.
Farrey - Today's college football players are rock
solid, much like the rugged terrain that surrounds the Sun Bowl. The
question is how hard coaches and colleges are working to find out what is
inside those man mountains.
For Outside The Lines, I'm Tom Farrey.
Ley - And when we continue, I'll talk with a physician leading the
fight against steroids, the head of the American Football Coaches
Association, and a two-time Super Bowl champion who says steroid use
ruined his health.
Ley - I'm joined this morning by Dr. Linn Goldberg, a professor of
medicine and a drug abuse educator. Dr. Goldberg is joining us this
morning from Portland, Oregon.
Grant Teaff is executive director of the American Football Coaches
Association and before that the head coach for many years at Baylor. He
is in New York City.
After Steve Courson retired from the NFL in 1985 with two Super
Bowl rings, he exposed what he said was widespread steroid use in the
league. He blames the drugs for his health problems. He joins us from
Steve, in the echoes of the story, the young man from UTEP, I hear
a lot of your story. It does not sound like a lot has changed in 20
Steve Courson, retired NFL player - Well, I don't think there's
any real opportunity for change because of the mandate for bigger, faster
and stronger. I think the coaches have tried to do what they can.
But they're like between a rock and a hard spot. Their jobs are
dependent upon them winning to keep employed. And they need bigger,
faster, and stronger athletes to accomplish that. So it's really a tough
situation for the NCAA and for coaches in particular.
Ley - What is that pressure, Grant, on coaches? You have to win
to stay employed.
Grant Teaff, American Football Coaches Association - Yeah, I think
there is no question that we're moving, in particularly Division 1A where
the bottom line is the goal line, even more so than it has always been.
But what Steve is talking about is so true. I don't know of any
coach who would ever in any wise do anything that would hurt a youngster.
That's the reason most coaches are in this business.
But the problem is that there are forces and influences out there
that affect youngsters. You look at children in the middle schools and
high schools. A recent survey in '91 says that they're up between two and
three percent, which is on the increase. And that's a real problem.
College, youngsters in colleges, are not only influenced by their
coaches. But there's all kinds of influences out there. The NFL has a
tremendous influence because everybody on that college level strives for
the big prize of going to the NFL. So there's a tremendous pressure to be
bigger, stronger and faster.
Ley - Dr. Goldberg, you work in drug education primarily at the
high school level. You're trying to bring your program now into the
college level. How are you going to have to change that to adapt to
Dr. Linn Goldberg, Oregon Health Sciences University - Well, I
think that many of the coaches really don't realize the dangers of
anabolic steroids. That's why I think that they often turn a blind eye.
They do in high schools.
And, in fact, like in your piece, you heard the coach say that "we
don't do steroids at our school." And that is really turning a blind eye
to the use of steroids in colleges and in high schools.
We found when we surveyed coaches around the state that they said
that steroid use was not at their school. It was always at someone else's
Courson - That's an interesting comment that Linn made. There was
another survey that I saw a few years ago. They were talking about - team
positions were interviewed by Virginia Coward (ph), a well known
researcher in this area.
And they interviewed all the team positions in the NFL. And every
one of them to a tee said, "Oh, well, steroids are a problem in the NFL,
but not on our team." So it goes beyond the coaches. It goes into the
medical profession also.
Ley - What can a coach be expected to know, Grant? You're running
- you're the CEO of a huge program. You're a Division One coach. You've
got assistants and coordinators and strength coaches and trainers. What
does the head guy know?
Teaff - Well, it's somewhat limited. I think the thing that any
head coach knows that one of his important roles and responsibilities, as
is the American Football Coaches Association, is education. And what we
have to do is take all of the information that's out there and try to
combat all these negative forces that say to a youngster, "You need to do
this to be the best you can be."
And I think that there are some great opportunities. Dr.
Goldberg's program is one of the best in the country. Individuals like
Steve that can literally be heard and see what's happened to him
physically is a great deterrent.
And the NCAA now has done a good job. But I would say that we
would all agree that we have not done a good enough job in any of these
Ley - Well, let's talk about the testing the NCAA does at bowl
games, Dr. Goldberg. They've been testing at bowl games. They've caught
one player in 10 years. You've got a chance maybe to be tested at one
time in your career if you're a Division One player. Is that effective?
Goldberg - Yeah, you would expect that not to be effective. A
person knows when they're going to be tested especially. If you do not
have random, unannounced testing, then it's not going to work as a
You know you can stop. Athletes often cycle these drugs.
But I wanted to mention one thing is that many of the
advertisements we have make steroids look good. You have ads that say
digital picture and sound is like putting your stereo on steroids. You
have the 3M company saying that Post-it Notes, the Post-it Easel is like a
Post-it Note on steroids.
You have Saab that advertises their car saying "Saab versus
steroids." Steroids cause big muscles, so does Saab. There's an image
that steroids are good. You'd never say this about other drugs like
cocaine or heroin.
Ley - But, Steve, they do work. They make you bigger. And they
make you faster. And they make you stronger, don't they?
Courson - Unquestionably. And also, we live in a
performance-oriented society. So steroids are related to increased
performance from an athletic standpoint, which is a different educational
twist when you're talking about, for instance, recreational drugs.
But I would like to make a comment on the drug testing as far as
the way the NCAA runs it, or the NFL, or the IOC, or anybody. The bottom
line in drug testing is it doesn't work very well.
There are numerous substances that athletes can take that they
don't have to fear detection because these are undetectable drugs. For
instance, growth hormone or designer steroids.
And the other fact that drug testing, in my opinion, is more of a
public relations tool than it is something with some teeth in it.
Ley - OK, Dr. Goldberg, we'll get back to you in just a second. I
promise you a chance to pick up on that point as we continue with Dr. Linn
Goldberg, Grant Teaff, and Steve Courson talking about steroid use,
specifically in college football and throughout sports.
Ley - The subject is steroids. We continue with Dr. Linn
Goldberg, with Coach Grant Teaff, and with Steve Courson, former Super
Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steve, you said it was PR, the testing. And Dr. Goldberg, you
want to jump in on that.
Goldberg - Well, I did because we're doing the first test to
actually analyze whether testing works or not in a study called Saturn
(ph). And today, billions of dollars have been spent on drug testing in
the workplace, in the military, in the federal government, and in sports.
But no one has ever looked at whether drug testing actually deters any
What we did find in our pilot investigation among adolescent
athletes, these are male and female, that it dropped adolescent use by 75
percent. So I think it goes beyond just PR if it's done in a random,
Ley - Well - go ahead, please.
Courson - I disagree with that, especially amongst elite athletes.
When there are numerous drugs that elite athletes realize that they can't
test for, again, such as growth hormone or designer steroids, how
effective can a random test be?
And I think what that does, the fact that testing is so
ineffective, it puts more pressure on coaches. It puts more pressure on
the players because there is no real concrete way to establish a level
Ley - Well, we talked to the athletic director at the University
of Texas El Paso Bob Stull about testing. And this is one school's view
on drug testing for steroids.
Stull - It is really important to understand that when you talk
about catching them, that's not really our business. Our business is to
try to educate them and develop kids. And we're not the drug enforcement
institute, as no university is.
Ley - Coach Teaff, do you agree with that?
Teaff - Well, let me just clear up a couple of things because we
don't want to paint everything with the same brush stroke. I think we all
realize we have a problem. Something constructive needs to be done about
But in 1991, the NCAA moved into this area of unannounced drug
testing. I've had players at Baylor tested four times, by the
institution, by the NCAA, and by the conference. At that time, some
conferences had testing.
I agree that I don't think it's the tremendous deterrent that it
should be. But it least it is positive 8,000 football players. Division
1A, and Division 1AA, and Division Two are tested each year, about 8,000.
So it's not the one or two at the bowl games, as was discussed.
But granted, much more needs to be done in terms of education. I
think that's where we all need to work together.
Goldberg - That's the one problem is that there isn't a
standardized education program that's found to work. That's why we
developed our Atlas (ph) program, because we wanted to find out whether it
worked. And it did reduce anabolic steroid use by more than 50 percent.
Ley - Dr. Goldberg, give me an example of a coach just going
through the paces and a coach making an effective intervention with his
team, with his young players.
Goldberg - Well, I don't think the coach by themselves will be
able to do it by giving a speech. But I think that the athletes working
together in a program manner, sort of in social influence to influence
each other, will work.
And that's what our program does. They work in small groups
together so athletes teach athletes with the coach facilitating because we
found coaches really don't know much more than kids about steroid use. In
fact, those who had 16 years of experience in Oregon knew less than kids
who were 16 years of age.
Ley - And, Steve, what about the entire issue of personal
responsibility? People look out your situation, your health issues. And
they'll say, "Well, Steve Courson put that stuff in his own body." So to
point at testing and to point at coaches, and as the young man at El Paso
said, "Nobody told me it was wrong." Shouldn't players know it's wrong?
Courson - Yeah, I think that's true. But you have to understand,
in my situation, I was introduced to steroids when I was playing college
football back in the '70s. They were prescribed to me by my team
physician. The university paid for them.
So that was in the era when they weren't illegal, and they weren't
banned. And they were looked at as like another super vitamin in the
training room. So my introduction to them was a little different than the
way young athletes are introduced to them today.
But your choice, especially as an elite athlete, especially when I
got in the NFL, the choice that people talk about is to use drugs or
compete at a disadvantage because of the widespread nature that still
exists in the National Football League.
Ley - In a sentence, quickly, Steve, are you encouraged or
discouraged about where we stand on this issue right now?
Courson - Oh, I'm encouraged. I agree with Grant and I agree with
Linn. Testing is a step in the right direction. And education is very
sorely needed. But I think we're fighting a social issue that's not going
to be easy to deal with as long as performance in this country in sports
is put on such a pedestal.
Ley - All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks to Dr.
Linn Goldberg, and to Coach Grant Teaff, and to Steve Courson as we have
been discussing steroids.
Next, we've got word of an upcoming chat on this topic and a
follow-up on last week's look at autograph fraud. We'll be right back.
Ley - After last week's program on the FBI's Operation Bullpen, we
received a number of e-mails asking how to authenticate autographed sports
memorabilia. Well, the only foolproof way, obviously, is to see an
athlete sign. Other than that, you should be fully satisfied that
whomever you buy from is also fully satisfied as to where they acquired
And a viewer from Fairfield, Ohio, writing that "Your report on
memorabilia probably caused more grief among those with forged baseballs
than the companies who did the forgery. The dishonest company only took
the duped person's money. You took their hope and pride in ownership of
"Most of them don't want to be reminded how much they've been
suckered. Another shoot-the-messenger-not-the-message story."
From Suwanee, Georgia, the observation that, "If the sports stars
of today were a little more generous with their time or accepted a more
reasonable appearance fee when signing, then perhaps the prices on
memorabilia would drop to the point that those forging would find the risk
no longer worth the reward."
The opinions there registered online at ESPN.com. The keyword to
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with you. Our e-mail address, email@example.com. And as always, we look
forward to reading your e-mails.
We have got more on today's topic. An ESPN.com online chat
tomorrow. Steve Courson will take your questions at 1 p.m. Eastern
time. Click the link from the front page, 1 p.m. Eastern, ESPN.com to
chat with Steve Courson.
Ley - Tuesday on the 6 p.m. Eastern "SportsCenter," Tom Farrey with
a behind-the-scenes look at the easy availability of steroids just over
the border in Mexico. Tom also has an article today linked from the
Outside The Lines page on ESPN.com.
And if you missed any portion of this show on steroids, it will
re-air at 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific, over on ESPN2.
"SportsCenter" is back in 30 minutes, "NFL Countdown" in an hour. Today,
the Rams explaining they're not panicking about their offensive problems.
Now to the ESPN Zone at Times Square, Dick Schaap and "The Sports
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BROADCAST OF SUNDAY, DEC. 10, 2000
Host - Bob Ley, ESPN.
Guests - Steve Courson, former NFL offensive lineman; Grant Teaff, executive director, American Football Coaches Association; Dr. Linn Goldberg, professor of medicine and drug educator.
Coordinating producer - Jonathan Ebinger, ESPN.