Lab to research performance-enhancing drugs

Updated: March 9, 2004, 4:02 AM ET
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- The NFL has joined with the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the University of Utah in forming a new drug testing laboratory in Salt Lake City.

The lab, whose creation was announced on Monday, will conduct research into the use and detection of prohibited and performance-enhancing substances. The U.S. Olympic Committee, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., will also be involved in the testing.

The NFL, the doping agency and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee from the 2002 Winter Olympics are providing startup funds for the laboratory. They will begin with facilities left over from the Salt Lake Games.

"The elimination of dangerous performance-enhancing substances from sports requires intensive state-of-the-art research on an ongoing basis," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement.

"The establishment of this new laboratory in partnership with the USADA is an important step in this process."

The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory will complement UCLA's sports drug-testing lab, the only U.S. lab certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is the drug-testing arm of the International Olympic Committee.

It will take about a year for Salt Lake's lab to win similar certification, meaning it won't be available for testing U.S. athletes headed to this summer's Olympic Games in Athens.

The U.S. and Salt Lake Olympic committees provided $500,000 each to start up the lab, the NFL is providing $1.1 million and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency another $1.5 million to operate the lab for five years.

"It won't change anything about our program other than it will make available another testing lab," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

The NFL tests every player once a year for steroids and other drugs and also conducts random tests. Urine samples are sent to the UCLA lab, but the NFL sees value in having a backup testing and research lab in Salt Lake City that builds off work done for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Four members of the Oakland Raiders reportedly tested posted for recently unmasked steroid THG. NFL officials, however, say that since Oct. 6, when the existence of THG became known, there have been no positive tests among the 2,000 players tested.

The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, as well as three other major leaguers and one NFL player, were given steroids from a lab implicated in an illegal distribution ring. The NFL player was identified as veteran linebacker Bill Romanowski, who was released by the Raiders last week after flunking a physical.

The players have denied using the steroids.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press