Former Steelers offensive lineman Steve Courson, the only ex-player who testified, is just too passé – too 1970s. It was too easy for the NFL commissioner to dismiss Courson's personal horror stories about steroid abuse as pre-Tagliabue and pre-testing. Heck, steroids weren't even illegal in those days.

Tagliabue sure is lucky his sport hasn't had a Jose Canseco – a former star who wrote a detailed, credible book about how he often injected other stars with steroids. Who knows? Maybe David Boston feels that, like Canseco, he has become the NFL's poster-boy scapegoat for steroid abuse. Maybe, under oath, Boston would have gone Canseco on the NFL.

Canseco's book triggered the baseball and football steroid hearings. Only because Canseco directly accused Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, and cast doubt on Sammy Sosa, did Congress invite (and then subpoena) all four to testify. With McGwire's basically pleading the fifth – and commissioner Bud Selig pleading incompetently with increasingly irritated congressmen – the baseball hearing turned into all-time memorable television.

Tagliabue is lucky his sport – though even more popular than baseball – doesn't have sacred home-run records that can be tainted by juiced-up sluggers. Emmitt Smith didn't duck and dart under a steroid cloud when he broke Walter Payton's career rushing record. No one thought Peyton Manning ingested more than Wheaties before he broke Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record.

That's partly because those records aren't nearly as magical as Roger Maris' 61 homers, then McGwire's 70, then Barry Bonds' 73. But it's certainly possible that the players who blocked for Smith and Manning might not have been clean. Wouldn't that taint those records?

Several congressmen voiced amazement by how much national attention the baseball hearing triggered. So the House Committee on Government Reform couldn't very well ignore the NFL. After all, the original stated goal of these hearings was to send a message to teenage steroid abusers.

Most kids aren't using steroids to play baseball. Most are using them to excel in football.

Yet the NFL had time to prepare – Selig & Co. basically wrote a how-not-to-testify manual – and to successfully lobby for no contemporary players. Committee chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) says today's players could be asked to a subsequent hearing. But I'll believe it when I see it.

After all, Davis and his cohorts let Tagliabue get away with saying: "All the literature about steroids – what does it do? It reduces body fat. It makes athletes lean and sculpted. Our players are exhibiting none of these characteristics. They have high body fat. They tend to be the antithesis of the lean, sculpted athlete."

Though none of his inquisitors seemed to comprehend this, Tagliabue was speaking only about offensive linemen, who mostly prevail with athletic girth. Then again, offensive lineman Todd Steussie was one of the Panthers who, according to the federal probe, allegedly received steroid prescriptions from the South Carolina doctor.

And quarterback Jim Miller, who fought to keep his weight down when he played for the Chicago Bears, tested positive for the steroid nandrolone. What position in baseball has used steroids at least as much as sluggers? According to some baseball insiders, the answer is: pitchers.



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