If you watch the NFL match you will be surprised at the incredible performance and muscular strength of the 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 NFL
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 the steroid use during the 1987 season. A lot of famous players openly admitted to using anabolic steroids, as it was legal. When the league finally introduced a ban and anti-doping testing, the players received a 4-match suspension (1/4 of the regular season) for the first violation, 8-match suspension for the second one, and a year of suspension was “granted” for the third violation. After that, the players needed to file a petition for restoration to the league commissioner.
Prohibition of steroids in the NFL today
According to the NFL’s domestic policy, testing for banned stimulants is performed year-round. Intensive anti-doping testing begins during the training camp, because all players are in the same place. During preseason matches, regular season games and playoff matches, ten players from each playing team are subjected to the test weekly.
Anti-doping testing continues in the off-season. Players who have a contract can be tested up to six times. Each player undergoes this procedure at least once a year. In this case, players who failed the test at the university less than two years before taking part in the NFL draft, fall under a special, tighter control, involving more frequent testing for at least two years.
Growth hormone and IGF-1 in the NFL
Testing for human growth hormone (also known as HGH) in the NFL began only in 2014. Surprisingly, until September 2017 no player had been caught on this violation. According to former NFL players, 20-30 percent of athletes in the NFL use growth hormone. The independent administrator of the policy of banned stimulants of the NFL, Dr. John Lombardo, writes off the problem for the limitations of tests:
“I think the difficulty with testing for growth hormone is related to the sensitivity of the test and the short discovery window. There is another test, which is developed with a large detection window, from 5 to 8 days. When this test is applied, the situation will change. A short window is a difficult problem in all sports. ”
The window of detection of NFL test for synthetic growth hormone is from 1 to 2 days. Given that players have 24 hours to pass a test, and blood tests on match days are prohibited, it’s no surprise that so far no player has fallen on a synthetic growth hormone. A more efficient test developed by WADA should increase the detection window to 21 days.
The difficulty with testing for growth hormone is related to the sensitivity of the test and the short detection window. And this problem is in all sports (you might be interested in NBA steroids problem).
Less well-known hormonal-like substance, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) helps injured players to repair tendons, build muscle and become stronger and faster. IGF-1 is produced in response to growth hormone and it is necessary that the growth hormone has an effect on muscles and tissue.
This drug is included in the deer horn spray, which allegedly used the famous Ray Lewis to treat the bicep rupture, to recover in time to the Super Bowl. Traditional anti-doping tests used in NFL are not effective enough to detect IGF-1.
The use of other performance-enhancing drugs in the NFL
Erythropoietin promotes the formation of red blood cells, which are carriers of oxygen along the body. The drug is widely used by cyclists and is difficult to detect, especially if used in micro doses. The erythropoietin test is expensive and has a very small detection window (24 hours). Ephedrine, used for weight loss, is banned in the NFL, like albuterol (however, it is allowed for asthmatics). Surprisingly, a rather large percentage of athletes have asthma and, accordingly, they can legally consume the drug.
Another drug that is abused by NFL players is Alderall. This drug is usually prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. This psychotropic stimulant, based on amphetamines, increases mental and physical abilities. For people who do not have ADHD, the drug has a stimulating effect, increasing attention and focus. Adderall is on the list of banned drugs according to the NFL policy.
One First & Goal correspondent stated that players have permission from doctors for its therapeutic use. In the USA, more than 6% of children are being treated for ADHD, despite the fact that the number of ADHD diagnoses increased by almost 50% in the last six years. Getting a prescription from a doctor is not that difficult (read more on OTC steroids). Therapeutic use exemption allows you to legally use a prohibited drug. Star cornerback of Seahawks Richard Sherman allegedly suspected of administering Adderall, but in the end, he managed to win an appeal. In an interview, Sherman openly announced the general use of the Adderall in the NFL: “Approximately half the league uses Adderall, and the NFL needs to allow it use.”
Footballers who (probably) 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 re-use 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 is a famous linebacker in American football. He was involved in some steroid scandal. Some people suspect that he used nandrolone and drostanolone.
- Bo Jackson. It’s a star of both American football and baseball. Officially, he was not caught in doping, but nutritionist Ellen Coleman stated that Bo used anabolic drugs.
- Clay Matthews. This is a huge guy who 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 bottom line on the NFL and steroids
With progress in testing and the expansion of the list of banned drugs, players are switching from anabolic steroids to substances that are difficult to detect, and take very low doses. Therefore, most likely the problem of steroids in the NFL will exist for a long time. Many athletes are ready to do anything to be in good shape and constantly win.