League following Olympics lead

Updated: March 31, 2005, 12:32 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NFL is seeking to upgrade its steroid testing program to bring it back in line with Olympic standards.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday that the move, which would require approval by the NFL Players Association, is not related to a CBS News report involving Carolina players and steroids.

Steroids Policies Of The MLB And NFL*
Frequency of tests At least once a year Once a year
Penalty for 1st offense 10-day suspension 4-game suspension
Penalty for 2nd offense 30-day suspension 6-game suspension
Penalty for 3rd offense 60-day suspension Min. 1-year suspension
*All suspensions without pay

The network was to report on "60 Minutes Wednesday" that Panthers players Todd Sauerbrun and Jeff Mitchell, and former player Todd Steussie, had steroid prescriptions filled by a South Carolina doctor now under investigation by federal authorities.

The NFL's move, which applies to testosterone levels in steroid tests, also comes at a time when steroid use in baseball has come under Congressional scrutiny.

"We have always adhered to the standard set by the International Olympic Committee," Aiello said. "Since the IOC has made its standards tougher, this was done to stay in line with it."

Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, has been a staunch advocate of more stringent steroid testing. Upshaw is vacationing in Hawaii and did not immediately return calls placed Wednesday by The Associated Press.

For the last 15 years, the NFL has had one of the toughest steroid-testing programs in sports, with random testing and suspensions for a first-time failure. Over that period, there have been 44 suspensions.

Last week, New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett acknowledged using steroids as a player in the early 1980s, a time when steroid use was rampant in the league. He told two newspapers that many Pittsburgh Steelers used steroids in the late '70s, then apologized for those remarks.

In January, with new testing equipment available, the World Anti-Doping Agency toughened its standards. The International Olympic Committee adopted those new standards. The NFL then proposed that such a move be taken up in May, when the league and the union annually discuss changes in drug policy.

Under the old standard, a ratio above 6-1 of testosterone to epitestosterone, another natural hormone, was deemed to be a failed test. The new ratio adopted by WADA is 4-1, one that the NFL proposes to implement in its new policy. The most likely natural ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in humans is 1:1.

The CBS report said the three Carolina players had prescriptions for testosterone cream filled within two weeks of the Panthers' appearance in the 2004 Super Bowl. In addition to the cream, which is banned by the NFL, Sauerbrun -- one of the league's top punters -- obtained syringes and the injectable steroid Stanozolol, which also is banned by the league, the report said.

The prescriptions reportedly were written by Dr. James Shortt, the subject of a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation for allegedly prescribing steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press