<
>

Tagliabue: Panthers unaware as players visited doctor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers officials didn't know
some of their players visited a South Carolina doctor suspected of
writing illegal steroids prescriptions, NFL commissioner Paul
Tagliabue said Thursday.
"I think one thing is clear already, based on what I have been
presented with, that no one within the Panthers organization was in
any way, shape or form involved with any of these players who were
playing outside the lines," Tagliabue said, according to a
statement released by the team.
The NFL began its investigation into allegations of steroid use
after a CBS News report in March identified center Jeff Mitchell,
tackle Todd Steussie and punter Todd Sauerbrun as having filled
prescriptions written by Dr. James Shortt of West Columbia, S.C.,
for steroids. Several other former Panthers have also been named as
Shortt's patients in subsequent media reports.
The league has nearly finished the investigation, Tagliabue
said.
"Hopefully, I'll have the report by the beginning of the
season, and then we can discuss it with the [NFL] Players
Association to see whether there are changes that we can make that
would perhaps increase the penalties for players who might engage
with others in a course of conduct that was designed to circumvent
the [drug-testing] program," Tagliabue said.
The players involved in the investigation probably won't be
suspended, he said.
"Based on what I've heard to this point, it would be virtually
impossible to have found that any player violated the program the
way the program exists," Tagliabue said.
Of the players identified in the initial CBS report, only
Mitchell, the Panthers' starting center, remains with the team.
Steussie is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Sauerbrun was traded
to the Denver Broncos.