Yesterday we received news that the DEA raided several NFL locker rooms as part of an investigation into potentially improper or illegal use of prescription drugs by NFL teams. This is very bad news for Commissioner Roger Goodell. One of the most mystifying things in all of sports in recent years has been how Major League Baseball has received mountains of bad press and was even subject to United States Senate hearings about the use of performance enhancing drugs by their players, yet the NFL, whose players look like Soviet era science projects, has largely escaped any negative publicity whatsoever. That is all about to change.
The contract in the leagues is downright mystifying. Bud Selig is widely condemned for turning a blind eye to PEDs after the 1994 strike as the surge in home runs and the pursuit by various players of the single season home run record sent ratings soaring. While that may well have been true, Selig and MLB would eventually make a serious effort to get drugs out of baseball. They instituted aggressive testing and punishment for the use of both steroids and HGH, and even launched their own investigations into the suppliers of drugs, which resulted in major suspensions to some of its biggest stars, such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.
By contrast, the NFL is only now getting around to implementing an HGH testing program, and when players do test positive for steroids or other PEDs, they only get a 4 game suspension and are welcomed back with open arms as if nothing had ever happened. To put things in perspective, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for an entire year without ever failing a single drug test. He was suspended when MLB investigators, acting proactively, uncovered that he was a client of a PED supplier.
If you are wondering if baseball’s anti-drug efforts are working, consider that Giancarlo Stanton, who was just rewarded with a 13 year, $325 million dollar contract, led the National League in home runs this year with 37. In 1998 and 1999, Sammy Sosa hit 66 and 63 home runs respectively, but didn’t lead the league in home runs either year. As for the NFL, Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, ran a 4.7 40 yard dash as his combine in the mid-1980s. In the 2014 combine, 4 defensive ends ran a faster 40 time.
Roger Goodell has been hammered for turning a blind eye to domestic violence in the NFL. Just as it was looking like he had weathered that storm and was going to save his job, the federal investigators suddenly raided NFL locker rooms. If he thought he had it rough when media types like Bill Simmons were calling him names, just wait until he gets dragged before a Senate Committee in 2015.