If you watch any NFL showdown, you’ll be surprised at the incredible performance and muscular strength of players. They jump high, run fast, and have an impressive muscle mass. Is it possible to have such results without steroids? We do not think so. Definitely, American football has a steroid problem.
History of the Use of Steroids in the National Football League
According to First & Goal website, steroids were widely used in the NFL in the 1970s and 1980s, until the official ban in 1987. The NFL introduced an anti-doping policy and began to test users for steroid use during the 1987 season. A lot of pros openly admitted to juicing, as it was legal. When the league banned anabolics and initiated anti-doping testing, the players received a 4-match suspension (a quarter of the regular season) for the first contravention, an 8-match suspension for the second, and a year of suspension was “granted” for the third violation. After that, players in question needed to file a petition for restoration to the league commissioner.
Doping Prohibitions in the NFL
Year-round testing aimed at determining prohibited drugs is stipulated by the NFL. When athletes undergo training in the camp they’re subject to thorough testing. 10 random players from each team are required to be tested on a weekly basis during preseason and season games, as well as playoff matches.
Even in the offseason, anti-doping control doesn’t cease. Experts can test contract-bound players six times. Each player is obliged to undergo this procedure annually. Tighter control measures are taken in relation to those athletes who failed the test before participating in the NFL draft.
GH and IGF-1 in the NFL
The players in this league started to undergo growth hormone (HGH) testings several years ago. Although around 20 to 30 percent of the NFL athletes resort to HGH, no one was caught on using it until 2017.
Dr. John Lombardo, engaged in prohibited stimulants’ policy administration, when commenting on this phenomenon noticed that it was related to the short-term discovery window and the test sensitivity. He added that applying a newly developed test based on a longer (five to eight days) detection window would change the situation.
One to two days typically constitutes a window of the NFL test detection. Taking into account the fact that athletes may not undergo blood tests on the days when they have matches, no wonder they have not fallen on a synthetic HGH. WADA has elaborated a more advanced test which would extend the window of detection to 21 days.
The difficulty with testing for GH is related to the sensitivity of the test and a short period when the substances are detectable. This problem is observed in all sports (read about the NBA steroids problem).
Players use another drug called “insulin-like growth factor” (IGF-1) to recover from injuries, build muscles, and enhance strength and speed.
The substance is contained in deer horn spray, which was allegedly applied by Ray Lewis (nicknamed “Raytorious l52” and “Brickwall”) when he was recovering from the bicep rupture before participating in the Super Bowl. Currently, IGF-1 cannot be detected by conventional NFL tests.
Other Performance-Enhancing Drugs in the NFL
Erythropoietin, which is popular among cyclists, stimulates red blood cells—oxygen carriers—formation. When used in tiny doses, it’s almost impossible to detect. In addition, the appropriate test is costly and features a 24-hour detection window. Athletes suffering from asthma can legally use Ephedrine to lose weight, as this substance is not prohibited for asthmatics.
Some NFL players abuse another banned medicine—Adderall (Adderall XR, Mydayis), which is applied in treating children experiencing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This amphetamine is considered a psychotropic activator, enhancing physical and mental performance, in particular, focus and attention.
As stated by a First & Goal correspondent, some players manage to obtain a doctor’s prescription for this drug, which is, by the way, not complicated (read more on OTC steroids). According to statistic reporting, 6% of American children undergo therapy for ADHD, while ADHD diagnoses have amounted to nearly 50% in recent years. Richard Sherman, Seahawks cornerback, succeeded in appealing the accusation of Adderall’s administration. When giving an interview, the athlete announced that a lot of the NFL players use Adderall, which had to be officially allowed.
Footballers Who [Probably/Provenly] Used Anabolic Steroids in the NFL
Here is a list of the most famous NFL players on steroids:
- Laron Landry: this athlete received a 10-match suspension for the reuse of banned drugs. It should be noted that his impudence amazes. During disqualification, he posted a photo on Twitter where he showed his huge biceps in a gym.
- Brian Cushing: this famous linebacker was involved in some steroid scandals. Some suspect that he used Nandrolone and Drostanolone.
- Bo Jackson: this multi-talented athlete also plays basketball. Officially, he was not caught in doping, but nutritionist Ellen Coleman stated that Bo used anabolic drugs.
- Clay Matthews: this huge guy is an NFL star. If you look at him, you’ll think he’s probably using steroids. But there is no official proof. Clay himself says that he never used steroids.
The list of players who have been banned for an indefinite or specified term (several games) for using banned substances is gigantic. It includes the following players (2015-2019 cases):
- Tayo Fabuluje
- Ego Ferguson
- Jalen Saunders
- Marcel Reece
- Silas Redd
- Johnny Manziel
- Zach Sterup
- Nikita Whitlock
- Alshon Jeffery
- Tenny Palepoi
- Alvin Bailey
- Doug Martin
- Kenneth Dixon
- Khyri Thornton
- Jeremy Kerley
- Corey Liuget
- Vontaze Burfict
- Mark Ingram
- Julian Edelman
- ArDarius Stewart
- Carlos Henderson
- Terrance Williams
- Martavis Bryant
- Josh Gordon
- David Irving
In practice, indefinitely banned players can be reinstated.
The Bottom Line
With progress in testing and the expansion of the list of banned drugs, ballers are switching from anabolic steroids to hardly detectable substances, and take low doses. Therefore, most likely, the issue with anabolics in the NFL will exist for a long time. Many athletes are ready to do anything to be in good shape and consistently win.