NFL Use of Steroid Limited

Times Staff Writer

Based on tests conducted in the NFL so far, a source familiar with the situation said Monday it seemed unlikely that the use of a recently identified designer steroid was widespread among players in the league.

It is likely, according to the source, that the only positive results from the testing of existing samples will be those of the four Oakland Raiders revealed Sunday in media reports.

An NFL spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

It is unclear how many samples the NFL has tested for THG, the designer steroid, but it is known that the league tested those of the 10 players who were summoned before a federal grand jury in San Francisco. The source said it was a "fair assumption" that six of those players had negative tests for the substance.

The four who tested positive, revealed by CBS Sportsline on Sunday, were Raiders Barret Robbins, Chris Cooper, Dana Stubblefield and Bill Romanowski.

Other players subpoenaed were Oakland's Chris Hetherington and Tyrone Wheatley, former Raider Josh Taves, Kansas City's Johnnie Morton, New England's Larry Izzo and Atlanta's Artie Ulmer.

The grand jury is looking into Victor Conte and the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, and investigating whether Conte laundered money from the sale of performance-enhancing drugs. THG has been linked to the Burlingame lab and is at the center of a widening sports scandal. The NFL, which has the strictest steroid policy of any professional sports league, performs random, year-round testing of its players for banned substances. The first steroid-related infraction means an automatic four-game suspension.

When a player is tested, his urine is divided into A and B samples. If the A sample tests positive for a banned substance, the player is informed and is allowed to be present with his attorney for the testing of the B sample. If the second test is positive, the player may appeal the mandatory suspension, which amounts to one-quarter of the season without pay.

The source said the Raider players had tested positive in the first stage of the process and received letters informing them that their B samples soon would be tested.

"I don't encourage or condone the use of steroids," Raider Coach Bill Callahan said in his Monday news conference. "Not only as a father but as a coach in any regard. It's a serious matter. I wish I had more information. And again, I don't have the full jurisdiction over this area because there is an ongoing federal investigation going on.... When that is involved, it's not my area."

The league and the players' union are still negotiating on how far back the league can go in testing samples. Harold Henderson, chairman of the league's management council, met Monday with Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Assn., to discuss the matter, and they are expected to continue talking this week.

On Sunday, after the Raiders had ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Vikings, Robbins and Cooper spoke briefly with reporters and issued halfhearted denials of the report. Stubblefield and Romanowski, who are injured, did not play in the game and were not in the locker room afterward.

"That's something that's out there," Robbins said of the report. "I haven't been notified of that, and I don't believe that it's right, the way it's been handled, and that's all I'm really going to say on that."

Cooper said the questions were "putting a damper on my night."

According to an investigator's report revealed last week by the San Francisco Chronicle, Romanowski's wife told Colorado authorities in 1999 that her husband, who then played for the Denver Broncos, had obtained human growth hormone from BALCO and injected it into his knee.

Julie Romanowski made the statement to a Douglas County sheriff's official and a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who questioned her in an investigation into suspected prescription-drug fraud, the newspaper said. Bill Romanowski was acquitted in Castle Rock, Colo., in 2001 of charges of illegally obtaining prescription diet pills.

Romanowski, a Pro Bowl linebacker whose streak of 243 consecutive games was recently broken because of concussion problems, has been a longtime proponent of BALCO and Conte. He is quoted in the January 2000 issue of Muscular Development as saying, "Victor's the man."

Among Romanowski's accomplishments are four Super Bowl rings. But he has made waves too, spitting in the face of receiver J.J. Stokes on national TV, and this summer punching out Oakland teammate Marcus Williams at training camp, a one-sided fight that shattered Williams' eye socket and possibly ended his career.

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