Haslett apologizes for implicating Steelers

Updated: March 24, 2005, 7:37 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett apologized to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday for saying that team's use of steroids during its Super Bowl championship seasons in the 1970s popularized the drug in the NFL.

"I have a lot of respect for that team, that organization and Mr. (Dan) Rooney," Haslett said. "That's just what we believed when I played. And, later, one of their players admitted using steroids. But I didn't mean to cause them any harm."

The admission by Steve Courson, a part-time starter on Pittsburgh's last Super Bowl title team in 1979, was one reason Haslett felt rumors about the Steelers' steroid use were true.

Courson has blamed a heart condition on steroid use. Courson also said that teammates such as Jack Ham and Jack Lambert adamantly refused to use them.

Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who ran the team during the 1970s, denied the Steelers pioneered steroid use in the NFL.

"This is totally false when he says it started with the Steelers in the '70s," Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "(Then-coach) Chuck Noll was totally against it. He looked into it, examined it, talked to people. Haslett, maybe it affected his mind."

Haslett who played in Buffalo from 1979 to 1985, and finished his career in 1987 with the New York Jets, admitted Wednesday that he experimented with steroids, believing he needed them to keep up with the many players he felt used them. The acknowledgment and his comments about the Steelers came in Hawaii, where he had been attending NFL meetings.

"It wasn't against the rules in those days, it wasn't illegal," said Haslett, who estimated that half of the NFL players when he was in the league, and all the linemen, took steroids.

The NFL banned their use and began testing for steroids in 1987, but players weren't suspended for using them until 1989. The league started using random, year-round drug testing in 1990.

Haslett said he talked about steroid use in his day to point out how far the NFL had come, not to cast aspersions on anyone.

"I have a lot of respect for this league, but it's naive to think people weren't using enhancing drugs before they were illegal," Haslett said. "The difference is that the NFL recognized that steroids would hurt the league and took steps to stop their use. That's what I was trying to show."

Haslett had already bulked up from his 160-pound high school weight by the time he left college. He did that strictly through working out, he said.

It was after he was drafted by the Bills in 1979 that he used steroids, thinking they would help him stay competitive.

"If you didn't you weren't as strong as everybody else, you weren't as fast as everybody else," Haslett said. "That's the only reason to do it. Everybody's looking for a competitive edge."

But the drug did not help as much as he expected, Haslett said on Thursday, and he quit using it.

"You still had to do all the work, eat right, lift weights," Haslett said. "I didn't think it did much for me."

And Haslett did not like the side effects, saying steroids made him hyper and left him bloated.

"I'm a proponent of the NFL policies and what we've done in this area," Haslett said. "I was just trying to explain the differences between the old days and now."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press