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Outside the Lines: Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Host - Bob Ley, ESPN.
Guests - Steve Courson, former NFL offensive lineman; Grant Teaff, executive director, American Football Coaches Association; Dr. Linn Goldberg, professor of medicine and drug educator.
Coordinating producer - Jonathan Ebinger, ESPN.

Outside The Lines - Painful Temptation of Steroids

Bob Ley, host - Didn't we just see the state of the art in drug testing and drug cheating? The Sydney Olympics with aggressive scientists, the first Olympic games in 52 years without a track and field world record, dozens of athletes caught either during or prior to Sydney for an array of substances in that ever-spiraling cops and robbers game between testers and cheaters.

So steroids are almost retro. But they're making a comeback. Research is suggesting that their use among U.S. teenagers of both genders has grown in the past decade. Arrests for steroid smuggling and trafficking have never been lower.

Meanwhile, in football, the premium on size is appropriately larger than ever. Back in 1969, the national championship Texas Longhorns had an offensive line averaging 213 pounds. The figures for this year's Orange Bowl teams - Oklahoma 289 pounds, Florida State 315 pounds.

Now we do not suggest in any way the growth in size for these players is related to steroids. But simply, the bar on bigger and stronger is raised constantly in college football, that reality colliding with a willing player and all-too-available drugs, the subject of this report by's Tom Farrey.

Tom Farrey, correspondent - In the mid-1990s, the University of Texas at El Paso had a really bad team.

Ryan Pyle, former college football player - This was signing day, '95.

Farrey - Ryan Pyle, an all-state prospect from Houston was going to change all that. But UTEP football ended up changing him.

Farrey - What's this?

Pyle - It's my NCAA drug testing form.

Farrey - Why do you keep this thing in there?

Pyle - Because as a reminder what you shouldn't let take over your life.

Farrey - Four years ago, as a red shirt freshman tight end, Pyle tested positive for anabolic steroids.

Pyle - Some people say when you're out there in the jungle, you do what you've got to do. But that's kind of the way it was looked at.

But I think sitting there in the bathroom with a syringe in the counter and it kind of being that way - not really that way of living - but doing that, and then on the other side was I guess everything I was taught growing up and all my beliefs and what was right and what was wrong. And actually, for an 18-year-old kid 1,000 miles away from home, it was actually a real scary thing for something to be so important. I think that's what people don't understand.

Farrey - El Paso is a unique location for college football. Where else would you find an ad in the end zone for the U.S. Border Patrol?

Directly across from the Sun Bowl is Juarez, Mexico, where Ryan Pyle obtained steroids from a veterinary pharmacy.

Pyle - That blows me away to this day that I put something in my body that's made for a horse.

Farrey - A normal human male has a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of one-to-one. Pyle had a ratio of 36-to-one.

He was not the only UTEP player caught with steroids. Starting quarterback John Rayborn (ph) tested positive for the steroid clambuterol (ph), a banned substance.

So how many guys on the team would you say were on steroids?

Pyle - I'd say at any given time, there were probably 10 to 15 that were.

Farrey - Ten to 15 guys?

Pyle - Yeah, probably 10 to 15 guys. I don't know if it was really hard core, but mixed with something. No matter what it was, some type of enhancing substance. Now I know for a fact those numbers would double during the summer months because there was no NCAA testing during the summer months.

Farrey - You might think that a team's coaching staff would be aware of this kind of widespread drug use. Pyle's former coach Charlie BaiLey declined to talk to OUTSIDE THE LINES on camera, but denied that he turned a blind eye to steroid use on his UTEP teams.

Pyle - To my recollection, I don't even think anyone ever said, "Hey, don't do steroids. They're bad. Don't do this, you'll get caught," or, "Don't do this, it's not what we believe in." There's no talk of it.

There's no doctor. There's no coach coming out and saying that this is bad.

Bob Stull, Athletic Director, Univ. of Texas-El Paso - Charlie certainly was very intolerant of any type of activity, drug or otherwise. Now I don't think - I'm not sure again, I don't think in 1995, '96, '97 when Ryan was there, I don't think there was a real good program in place, OK?

Farrey - For his arrival at UTEP in 1998, Stull introduced programs to educate players about steroids. His new coach, Gary Nord, says he talks to his players every two weeks about steroids. But Stull says steroids are not the primary drug problem in college football.

Stull - Quite frankly, in our business, we're much more concerned with alcohol abuse, marijuana, cocaine. That to us is much more prevalent.

Farrey - And that opinion is reflected in UTEP's in-house drug testing program, which is distinct from the NCAA's testing program.

Kevin Hatcher, Asst. Athletic Dir., Compliance Dept., Univ. of Texas-El Paso - We test the kids four times a year, two times a semester. And we test them for street drugs.

Farrey - Not steroids.

Hatcher - No, we do not test for steroids. We have good kids here. And we know that they're not using steroids.

Farrey - But how do you know that if you're not testing for steroids.

Hatcher - Well, the NCAA tests for steroids.

Farrey - And that's how Pyle was busted. But even with that, there's a decent chance a player will be tested no more than a couple of times during his college career. And players believe they can beat those tests as well.

Pyle - I've seen - there were reverse catheters, which is they get someone else to urinate for them and then put that back into, definitely not professional medically, but get it put back into their bladder so that they can pass the test. I just don't think enough people are tested. The right measures aren't taken because a steroid test is very, very expensive.

Stull - The schools just don't have the money to test for it because it's about $100 to test for steroid use.

Farrey - Some schools give steroid tests on their own on a reasonable cause basis. UTEP, for instance, tested three football players this year because Coach Nord suspected them of steroid use.

Gary Nord, head football coach, Univ. of Texas-El Paso - Thank goodness they turned out negative. But we are on top of it.

Stull - We do the education. We do the testing. And based on those two things, on the testing alone, would indicate that there is virtually no one really doing it.

Pyle - People don't realize that it is a problem. People think of it, oh, well, my kid can't get steroids, or my kid wouldn't do that. But it is, it's out there. I think that people need to wake up.

Farrey - Football means that much to some players.

Pyle - The first time I played football. It was that important to me that I chose that. I chose to pick that up and put that in my body, which I regret almost every day of my life.

When a kid who's 18 years old chooses that, I think there's a problem. There's a problem with the whole system.

Farrey - Today's college football players are rock solid, much like the rugged terrain that surrounds the Sun Bowl. The question is how hard coaches and colleges are working to find out what is inside those man mountains.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Tom Farrey.

Ley - And when we continue, I'll talk with a physician leading the fight against steroids, the head of the American Football Coaches Association, and a two-time Super Bowl champion who says steroid use ruined his health.

Ley - I'm joined this morning by Dr. Linn Goldberg, a professor of medicine and a drug abuse educator. Dr. Goldberg is joining us this morning from Portland, Oregon.

Grant Teaff is executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and before that the head coach for many years at Baylor. He is in New York City.

After Steve Courson retired from the NFL in 1985 with two Super Bowl rings, he exposed what he said was widespread steroid use in the league. He blames the drugs for his health problems. He joins us from Farmington, Pennsylvania.

Steve, in the echoes of the story, the young man from UTEP, I hear a lot of your story. It does not sound like a lot has changed in 20 years.

Steve Courson, retired NFL player - Well, I don't think there's any real opportunity for change because of the mandate for bigger, faster and stronger. I think the coaches have tried to do what they can.

But they're like between a rock and a hard spot. Their jobs are dependent upon them winning to keep employed. And they need bigger, faster, and stronger athletes to accomplish that. So it's really a tough situation for the NCAA and for coaches in particular.

Ley - What is that pressure, Grant, on coaches? You have to win to stay employed.

Grant Teaff, American Football Coaches Association - Yeah, I think there is no question that we're moving, in particularly Division 1A where the bottom line is the goal line, even more so than it has always been.

But what Steve is talking about is so true. I don't know of any coach who would ever in any wise do anything that would hurt a youngster. That's the reason most coaches are in this business.

But the problem is that there are forces and influences out there that affect youngsters. You look at children in the middle schools and high schools. A recent survey in '91 says that they're up between two and three percent, which is on the increase. And that's a real problem.

College, youngsters in colleges, are not only influenced by their coaches. But there's all kinds of influences out there. The NFL has a tremendous influence because everybody on that college level strives for the big prize of going to the NFL. So there's a tremendous pressure to be bigger, stronger and faster.

Ley - Dr. Goldberg, you work in drug education primarily at the high school level. You're trying to bring your program now into the college level. How are you going to have to change that to adapt to college coaches?

Dr. Linn Goldberg, Oregon Health Sciences University - Well, I think that many of the coaches really don't realize the dangers of anabolic steroids. That's why I think that they often turn a blind eye. They do in high schools.

And, in fact, like in your piece, you heard the coach say that "we don't do steroids at our school." And that is really turning a blind eye to the use of steroids in colleges and in high schools.

We found when we surveyed coaches around the state that they said that steroid use was not at their school. It was always at someone else's schools.

Courson - That's an interesting comment that Linn made. There was another survey that I saw a few years ago. They were talking about - team positions were interviewed by Virginia Coward (ph), a well known researcher in this area.

And they interviewed all the team positions in the NFL. And every one of them to a tee said, "Oh, well, steroids are a problem in the NFL, but not on our team." So it goes beyond the coaches. It goes into the medical profession also.

Ley - What can a coach be expected to know, Grant? You're running - you're the CEO of a huge program. You're a Division One coach. You've got assistants and coordinators and strength coaches and trainers. What does the head guy know?

Teaff - Well, it's somewhat limited. I think the thing that any head coach knows that one of his important roles and responsibilities, as is the American Football Coaches Association, is education. And what we have to do is take all of the information that's out there and try to combat all these negative forces that say to a youngster, "You need to do this to be the best you can be."

And I think that there are some great opportunities. Dr. Goldberg's program is one of the best in the country. Individuals like Steve that can literally be heard and see what's happened to him physically is a great deterrent.

And the NCAA now has done a good job. But I would say that we would all agree that we have not done a good enough job in any of these areas.

Ley - Well, let's talk about the testing the NCAA does at bowl games, Dr. Goldberg. They've been testing at bowl games. They've caught one player in 10 years. You've got a chance maybe to be tested at one time in your career if you're a Division One player. Is that effective?

Goldberg - Yeah, you would expect that not to be effective. A person knows when they're going to be tested especially. If you do not have random, unannounced testing, then it's not going to work as a deterrent.

You know you can stop. Athletes often cycle these drugs.

But I wanted to mention one thing is that many of the advertisements we have make steroids look good. You have ads that say digital picture and sound is like putting your stereo on steroids. You have the 3M company saying that Post-it Notes, the Post-it Easel is like a Post-it Note on steroids.

You have Saab that advertises their car saying "Saab versus steroids." Steroids cause big muscles, so does Saab. There's an image that steroids are good. You'd never say this about other drugs like cocaine or heroin.

Ley - But, Steve, they do work. They make you bigger. And they make you faster. And they make you stronger, don't they?

Courson - Unquestionably. And also, we live in a performance-oriented society. So steroids are related to increased performance from an athletic standpoint, which is a different educational twist when you're talking about, for instance, recreational drugs.

But I would like to make a comment on the drug testing as far as the way the NCAA runs it, or the NFL, or the IOC, or anybody. The bottom line in drug testing is it doesn't work very well.

There are numerous substances that athletes can take that they don't have to fear detection because these are undetectable drugs. For instance, growth hormone or designer steroids.

And the other fact that drug testing, in my opinion, is more of a public relations tool than it is something with some teeth in it.

Ley - OK, Dr. Goldberg, we'll get back to you in just a second. I promise you a chance to pick up on that point as we continue with Dr. Linn Goldberg, Grant Teaff, and Steve Courson talking about steroid use, specifically in college football and throughout sports.

Ley - The subject is steroids. We continue with Dr. Linn Goldberg, with Coach Grant Teaff, and with Steve Courson, former Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steve, you said it was PR, the testing. And Dr. Goldberg, you want to jump in on that.

Goldberg - Well, I did because we're doing the first test to actually analyze whether testing works or not in a study called Saturn (ph). And today, billions of dollars have been spent on drug testing in the workplace, in the military, in the federal government, and in sports. But no one has ever looked at whether drug testing actually deters any drug use.

What we did find in our pilot investigation among adolescent athletes, these are male and female, that it dropped adolescent use by 75 percent. So I think it goes beyond just PR if it's done in a random, unannounced fashion.

Ley - Well - go ahead, please.

Courson - I disagree with that, especially amongst elite athletes. When there are numerous drugs that elite athletes realize that they can't test for, again, such as growth hormone or designer steroids, how effective can a random test be?

And I think what that does, the fact that testing is so ineffective, it puts more pressure on coaches. It puts more pressure on the players because there is no real concrete way to establish a level playing field.

Ley - Well, we talked to the athletic director at the University of Texas El Paso Bob Stull about testing. And this is one school's view on drug testing for steroids.

Stull - It is really important to understand that when you talk about catching them, that's not really our business. Our business is to try to educate them and develop kids. And we're not the drug enforcement institute, as no university is.

Ley - Coach Teaff, do you agree with that?

Teaff - Well, let me just clear up a couple of things because we don't want to paint everything with the same brush stroke. I think we all realize we have a problem. Something constructive needs to be done about it.

But in 1991, the NCAA moved into this area of unannounced drug testing. I've had players at Baylor tested four times, by the institution, by the NCAA, and by the conference. At that time, some conferences had testing.

I agree that I don't think it's the tremendous deterrent that it should be. But it least it is positive 8,000 football players. Division 1A, and Division 1AA, and Division Two are tested each year, about 8,000. So it's not the one or two at the bowl games, as was discussed.

But granted, much more needs to be done in terms of education. I think that's where we all need to work together.

Goldberg - That's the one problem is that there isn't a standardized education program that's found to work. That's why we developed our Atlas (ph) program, because we wanted to find out whether it worked. And it did reduce anabolic steroid use by more than 50 percent.

Ley - Dr. Goldberg, give me an example of a coach just going through the paces and a coach making an effective intervention with his team, with his young players.

Goldberg - Well, I don't think the coach by themselves will be able to do it by giving a speech. But I think that the athletes working together in a program manner, sort of in social influence to influence each other, will work.

And that's what our program does. They work in small groups together so athletes teach athletes with the coach facilitating because we found coaches really don't know much more than kids about steroid use. In fact, those who had 16 years of experience in Oregon knew less than kids who were 16 years of age.

Ley - And, Steve, what about the entire issue of personal responsibility? People look out your situation, your health issues. And they'll say, "Well, Steve Courson put that stuff in his own body." So to point at testing and to point at coaches, and as the young man at El Paso said, "Nobody told me it was wrong." Shouldn't players know it's wrong?

Courson - Yeah, I think that's true. But you have to understand, in my situation, I was introduced to steroids when I was playing college football back in the '70s. They were prescribed to me by my team physician. The university paid for them.

So that was in the era when they weren't illegal, and they weren't banned. And they were looked at as like another super vitamin in the training room. So my introduction to them was a little different than the way young athletes are introduced to them today.

But your choice, especially as an elite athlete, especially when I got in the NFL, the choice that people talk about is to use drugs or compete at a disadvantage because of the widespread nature that still exists in the National Football League.

Ley - In a sentence, quickly, Steve, are you encouraged or discouraged about where we stand on this issue right now?

Courson - Oh, I'm encouraged. I agree with Grant and I agree with Linn. Testing is a step in the right direction. And education is very sorely needed. But I think we're fighting a social issue that's not going to be easy to deal with as long as performance in this country in sports is put on such a pedestal.

Ley - All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks to Dr. Linn Goldberg, and to Coach Grant Teaff, and to Steve Courson as we have been discussing steroids.

Next, we've got word of an upcoming chat on this topic and a follow-up on last week's look at autograph fraud. We'll be right back.

Ley - After last week's program on the FBI's Operation Bullpen, we received a number of e-mails asking how to authenticate autographed sports memorabilia. Well, the only foolproof way, obviously, is to see an athlete sign. Other than that, you should be fully satisfied that whomever you buy from is also fully satisfied as to where they acquired the piece.

And a viewer from Fairfield, Ohio, writing that "Your report on memorabilia probably caused more grief among those with forged baseballs than the companies who did the forgery. The dishonest company only took the duped person's money. You took their hope and pride in ownership of history.

"Most of them don't want to be reminded how much they've been suckered. Another shoot-the-messenger-not-the-message story."

From Suwanee, Georgia, the observation that, "If the sports stars of today were a little more generous with their time or accepted a more reasonable appearance fee when signing, then perhaps the prices on memorabilia would drop to the point that those forging would find the risk no longer worth the reward."

The opinions there registered online at The keyword to type on the home page, otlweekly. Our interactive site with on demand video and transcripts of all our Sunday morning programs, and a place to register your comments, criticisms, and suggestions we share each week with you. Our e-mail address, And as always, we look forward to reading your e-mails.

We have got more on today's topic. An online chat tomorrow. Steve Courson will take your questions at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Click the link from the front page, 1 p.m. Eastern, to chat with Steve Courson.

Ley - Tuesday on the 6 p.m. Eastern "SportsCenter," Tom Farrey with a behind-the-scenes look at the easy availability of steroids just over the border in Mexico. Tom also has an article today linked from the Outside The Lines page on

And if you missed any portion of this show on steroids, it will re-air at 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific, over on ESPN2. "SportsCenter" is back in 30 minutes, "NFL Countdown" in an hour. Today, the Rams explaining they're not panicking about their offensive problems.

Now to the ESPN Zone at Times Square, Dick Schaap and "The Sports Reporters."

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 ESPN's Bob Ley tackles the topic of steroids in collegiate football.
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