Monday, November 30, 2009

Union add G Seitz

Just four days after drafting 10 players from in the 2009 Major League Soccer Expansion Draft, Philadelphia Union has added former Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Chris Seitz to their roster in exchange for allocation money. Financial terms, as per club policy, are not disclosed.

“We are extremely excited about acquiring Chris Seitz who has been in the U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper pool and with Real Salt Lake the past three seasons,” said Philadelphia Union Team Manager Peter Nowak. “He’s physically imposing and now has a chance to compete to become a starting goalkeeper in MLS and realize his full potential.”

During his three years in Salt Lake, Seitz made seven starts-three in his rookie season and four during RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup Championship campaign-and recorded a 1.86 goals against average in 630 minutes in goal. Drafted fourth overall in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, Seitz was the second highest goalkeeper drafted in League history and became the second youngest goalkeeper to start an MLS match (20 years, 49 days of age) when he made his MLS debut on April 30, 2007. Only Tim Howard, current Everton (EPL) and #1 USMNT goalkeeper was younger by about six months.

Seitz also helped the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a solid performance in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament in January 2008. He also received call-ups to the Senior Men’s National Team camps and training sessions on a handful of occasions over the last two seasons.

“With the addition of Chris to our club, we’ve got two good young goalkeepers who will help build a strong foundation for our future,” offered CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “I’ve seen and heard a lot about Chris and Brad Knighton, who we drafted from New England, and I look forward to watching the competition between them once training begins.”

Born in California, Seitz played college soccer at Maryland, leading the squad to a 2005 National Championship as a freshman. In two seasons with the Terps, he registered a 28-5-3 record to go along with a sterling 0.77 GAA and 16 shutouts.

Philadelphia Union’s first ever First Kick will take place on the road, March 25, 2010 vs. Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field and nationally televised on ESPN2/ESPN Deportes. The club’s home opener is April 10 vs. regional rival D.C. United at Lincoln Financial Field.

Sixers meet with Iverson

"This afternoon, we met with free agent Allen Iverson in Dallas for the first formal discussion regarding a possible return to the Philadelphia 76ers," GM Ed Stefanski said in a statement. "The meeting lasted approximately two hours and covered a variety of topics, all of which we would prefer to keep between the team and Allen.

"The meeting was attended by Allen, his agent Leon Rose and his personal manager Gary Moore, along with 76ers Senior Vice President/Assistant General Manager Tony DiLeo, Head Coach Eddie Jordan, Assistant Coach Aaron McKie and me.

"At this time, both parties remain non-committal regarding a final decision and we will continue to discuss internally whether or not to pursue this course.

"We want to thank Allen, Leon and Gary for taking the time to meet with us today."

The Sixers will have no further comment at this time and further updates will be provided as they become available.

Eagles - Redskins Notebook

*The Eagles swept the season series against the Redskins for the fifth time in the last eight seasons (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009)

*Andy Reid improved his record to 14-8 against Washington (including 12 of the last 17)

* K David Akers went 4/4 on field goals (his 14th career game with four or more) including a game-winning 32-yarder with 1:48 remaining. It was his first game-winning field goal in the final two minutes of a game since his 38-yarder as time expired on 1/7/07 vs. NYG in the Wild Card round of the playoffs

*For his career, Akers has made eight game-winning field goals with under 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter or in overtime

*Akers extended his streak to 16 consecutive field goals made, which is the second-longest streak in his career (a team-record 17 in 2001)

* Akers has nailed 11 field goals of 40-plus yards this season, the second-highest total of his career (a team-record 17 in 2004) and the most in the NFC this season

*He played in his 167th game as an Eagle, passing Tra Thomas and moving into fourth place in team history

*With 385 PAT attempts in his career, Akers surpassed Bobby Walston (384) for the team record. He now leads the team in all major kicking categories: field goals (254), field goal attempts (309) and PATs made (380)

*QB Donovan McNabb has now led the Eagles to back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks, which is the first time the Eagles have done so since 2003 (14-10 win at NYG 10/19/03, 24-17 win vs. NYJ 10/26/03)

*He played in his 143rd game as an Eagle, passing Ron Jaworski for the team record among quarterbacks

*CB Asante Samuel picked up his sixth and seventh interceptions of the season, tying Troy Vincent (seven in 1999) for the highest total by any Eagle under Andy Reid

*It was Samuel’s highest interception total since leading the NFL with 10 in 2006

*Samuel has now had six multi-INT games in his career (his teams are 6-0 in those games)

*Samuel’s teams are 29-4 in games when he records an interception

*WR DeSean Jackson scored his shortest touchdown of the season, a 35-yard reception. He now has eight total touchdowns this season (6 receptions, one rush, one punt return), which is the most since Kevin Curtis had eight in 2007 (six receptions, two fumble recoveries)

*Jackson has eight touchdowns of 35 yards or more this season, which is the most by any player through his team’s first 11 games since 1970. The following players each had seven in their team’s first 11 games: Baltimore’s Jermaine Lewis in 1998, San Francisco’s Jerry Rice in 1986, St. Louis’ Roy Green in 1984, LA Rams’ Harold Jackson in 1973

*WR Jeremy Maclin had five catches for 63 yards, upping his season totals to 42 receptions and 540 yards. He ranks sixth in Eagles history among rookies in receptions and ninth in yards

*RB LeSean McCoy eclipsed the 100-yard mark in total yards from scrimmage (76 rushing, 25 receiving) for the second time in his career. He now has 734 scrimmage yards this season, which is tied with Fred Barnett (1990) the fifth-best total ever by an Eagles rookie

*McCoy’s 528 rushing yards this season are the sixth-most ever by an Eagles rookie. He needs 59 more to surpass Correll Buckhalter’s team record of 586 set in 2001

*FB Leonard Weaver has a career high 179 rushing yards this season

*RB Eldra Buckley scored his first-career touchdown. He became the 11th Eagle to score a touchdown this season

*The offense tied a season long with a 90-yard drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game

* WR Jason Avant tied a career high with 32 catches on the season

* The Eagles have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 18 regular season games

*DE Trent Cole picked up a sack and now has 9.5 on the season, three shy of his career high set in 2007. He has brought down the quarterback in nine of 11 games this season

*The defense has 18 interceptions on the season, including one in all but two games

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Haynesworth out vs. Eagles

Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be inactive for today's game against the Eagles, Jason La Canfora of NFL Network is reporting.

Haynesworth, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, did make the trip to Philadelphia with the team but will be unable to go.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Desperate Sixers may turn to Iverson

FOXSports is reporting that numerous team sources have confirmed that the 76ers' brass has already talked about bringing Allen Iverson back to Philadelphia, possibly as early as next week.

"It's being seriously considered," one Sixers official told FOX before the team's latest loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. "We know the history. We know the ups and downs. But we're also aware of what (Iverson) can do and that he's needed here. We simply can't just ignore the upside he'd bring. Not with our situation."

Sixers' coach Eddie Jordan is expected to fly from Dallas to Atlanta on Monday of next week to meet with Iverson.

FOX also reports that Jordan, who is a miserable 6-21 in his last 27 games an an NBA coach, is "incredibly frustrated" with everything from Elton Brand's work ethic to Andre Iguodala's inability to make plays off the dribble. The one player Jordan loves is guard Lou Williams, who is out for eight weeks with a broken jaw.

"Eddie needs a playmaker," a Jordan apologist said. "He needs an identity. Something to create some excitement."

Of course, Iverson balked at coming off the bench in both Detroit and Memphis. Team sources claim Iverson would be a starter here and Jordan had already planned on starting Williams with rookie Jrue Holiday anyway before LouWill's jaw injury. That would move Iguodala back to his natural small forward position, Thaddeus Young to the four and Jordan's punching bag, Brand, to the bench.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rosenhaus signs another Eagle

Drew Rosenhaus just announces on his Twitter account that he is now representing Eagles safety Quintin Demps.

Woods injured in car crash

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting Tiger Woods has been seriously injured in car crash and is hospitalized in Florida. The crash is under investigation.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Woods, 33, pulled out of his driveway in the Isleworth community about 2:25 a.m. when he struck a fire hydrant, and then drove into a tree at his neighbor's property.

Woods was transported to Health Central Hospital in Ocoee in serious condition but was released after being treated for facial lacerations.

The accident comes on teh heels of The NATIONAL ENQUIRER reporting that Woods has been cheating on his wife Elin Nordegren with a 34-year-old “New York party girl” Rachel Uchitel.

In the Enquirer’s Dec. 7 issue, Michael Glynn reports that Woods’ alleged mistress has a “reputation for dating married celebrities” and has had trysts with Woods in New York, Las Vegas and Australia, where Woods recently played in the Australian Masters.

UPDATE: is reporting that Woods did not suffer facial lacerations from the car accident and they were inflicted by his wife, Elin Nordegren.

The Web site claims Woods has said his wife confronted him about reports that he was seeing another woman, the argument got heated and she scratched his face up. Woods went to leave and his wife followed behind with a golf club. As Tiger drove away, she struck the vehicle several times with the club.

Woods also claimed he had been taking prescription pain medication for an injury, which could explain why the accident is under investigation.

Andrews needs more back surgery

Andy Reid informed the media today that Shawn Andrews is in Dallas getting another opinion on his back. His doctor in Los Angeles has already scheduled Andrews for more surgery next week.

Hot Stove taking a little while to get heated up

Chris Ruddick

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA - There is usually at least one big-ticket free agent who signs before Thanksgiving. At the very least, we normally have a trade by this point in the offseason.

Barring something happening over the next few hours, though, that does not seem to be the case this year.

That is unless you consider John Grabow re-upping with the Chicago Cubs, or Omar Vizquel playing his 22nd season on the Southside of Chicago a big deal, which I certainly do not.

However, the rumors are starting to pick up.

I thought the Boston Red Sox were going to try and make a big splash this winter and that appears to be the case.

Reportedly the Red Sox are going hard after Toronto ace Roy Halladay, and want to have a deal consummated before the Winter Meetings get underway in Indianapolis on December 7. The names that are being bandied about include Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly, the pitcher/shortstop who signed with the Red Sox in 2008 after being recruited by Tennessee to play quarterback.

The Red Sox are reportedly going hard after Toronto ace Roy Halladay.
Theo Epstein loves Kelly, though.

Boston is also supposedly shopping third baseman Mike Lowell. In all likelihood, the Red Sox want to get rid of Lowell so they can shift Kevin Youkilis to third and get a young bopper to play first, like an Adrian Gonzalez or Miguel Cabrera, who some believe may be available in the right deal.

I said last year that I have always believed that Texas prospect Justin Smoak would be the Red Sox first baseman in 2010, and I still believe that.

Everything appears quiet with the big free agent names. Matt Holliday and Jason Bay don't want to sign until the other does (obviously one will have to bite the bullet and sign first), and nothing is even remotely close on either front. Although, should the Toronto Blue Jays move Halladay, don't be surprised to see them make a run at the Canadian-born Bay, who would soften the loss of Halladay a little.

You hear the usual suspects with regards to John Lackey. The Mets and the Yankees appear to be the most interested, with the Rangers showing some mild interest.

Lackey, of course, is a Texas native and the Rangers could certainly use some pitching, but their ownership situation is in such disarray, I just don't see that happening.

It seems as if the hot stove is trying to start cranking, but still needs a few more coals to get it really going. The Winter Meetings the last couple of years have been a dud. Three weeks from now, though, Indianapolis figures to be a pretty busy place.


I have to hand it to the Baseball Writers Association of America. They were right on the money in just about all of their awards, especially nailing it with the unanimous selection of St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols and the near overwhelming support put behind Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer.

Well everyone that is except for Keizo Konishi from Kyodo News-Japan, who inexplicably gave a first place vote to Miguel Cabrera. The same Cabrera who of course was arrested after a night of drinking and smacking his wife around the weekend of the Tigers' biggest series of the season.

Maybe Konishi thought MVP stood for Most Valuable Partier?

This has always been my problem with the BBWAA voting for these awards. Cabrera reportedly got a $200,000 bonus for finishing fourth in the voting. Without Konishi's first-place vote, he probably would not have been in the top-5. Who's to say Cabrera and Konishi could not have cut a side deal to give the latter some cash?

Obviously I don't think that happened, but is not out of the realm of possibility that something like that might occur at some point. That's a loophole the BBWAA needs to close.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sixers' Williams out 8 weeks

Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams was examined this morning by team physician Dr. Jack McPhilemy of Main Line Health and oral surgeon Alfred Wolanin.

Williams underwent surgery this morning, during which time he had his upper and lower jaws wired together. He will meet with a nutritionist in the coming days to review a liquid diet designed to assist him in maintaining his weight.

Williams' will be out for eight weeks.

Have a great Turkey Day

Iverson announces retirement; lauds Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA (The Phan) - Perennial All-Star guard Allen Iverson has announced his his intenion to retire after a stellar 14-year career in the NBA.

Iverson, who was close to signing with the New York Knicks last week, will formally announce the retirement in the near future.

"I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn't help my team the way that I was accustomed to," Iverson said in a statement on media personality Stephen A. Smith's official website. "However, that is not the case. I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play and a whole lot left in my tank."

Iverson, 34, began the season with Memphis but was subsequently released after three games following public complaints regarding playing time and his role as a bench player.

The 34-year-old veteran started last season with Denver but was traded to Detroit on November 3 after just three games and played 54 games with the Pistons. His season was curtailed by a back problem, and he averaged 17.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in a combined 57 games, including 53 starts.

"Stepping away from the game will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and kids," Iverson said in the statement. "This is a reward that far exceeds anything that I've ever achieved on the basketball court."

Denver acquired Iverson from Philadelphia in December 2006, and he spent the remainder of that season and one full year with the Nuggets before last November's deal.

The former Georgetown star, who was the top overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, played his first 10 full seasons with Philadelphia, leading the 76ers to the NBA Finals in the spring of 2001. He was the league MVP for the 2000-01 season.

"To the city of Philadelphia: I have wonderful memories of my days in a Sixers' uniform," Iverson said. "To Philly fans, thank you. Your voice will always be music to my ears."

Coming into this season, Iverson had the fifth-highest regular season per-game scoring average of all-time at 27.0 and the second-highest playoff average with 29.7. He also averaged 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 889 games -- 877 starts -- with Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit and Memphis.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Union selects 10 in expansion draft

CHESTER, Pa (November 25, 2009)—Philadelphia Union have selected their first players. The MLS expansion club, set to begin play in 2010, now has 10 athletes, taken from a pool of 192, made available by their teams in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft.

“We have been scouting and evaluating talent for many months,” said Philadelphia Union Team Manager Peter Nowak. “From the teams throughout MLS, we have chosen a group of players who will give us some flexibility and create options for us, as we now build our initial roster. There is still much work ahead of us.”

For Philadelphia Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, integrating the selections of the Technical Staff with the rest of the organization is the next step in a process that began 15 years ago when he was a founding executive in the League.

“Our journey began as a dream to bring Major League Soccer to the Greater Philadelphia Region,” reflected Sakiewicz. “As our front office has evolved and we’ve watched with awe as our stadium rises here on the banks of the Delaware in Chester, now the reality of having our first players is a fabulous move forward. Yet the challenge of continuing to create the quality team and organization we believe our supporters deserve drives us on every day.”

“We look forward to integrating our players into our growing family.”

The players selected are:


Brad Knighton (New England)


Dave Myrie (Chicago Fire)

Shavar Thomas (Chivas USA)

Jordan Harvey (Colorado Rapids)


Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes)

Stefani Miglioranzi (Los Angeles Galaxy)

Andrew Jacobsen (D.C. United)


Nick Zimmerman (New York Red Bulls)

Alejandro Moreno (Columbus Crew)

Sebastien Le Toux (Seattle Sounders)

The System Coach: Thanks for nothing

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - As the NBA editor here at The Sports Network, I was all set to pen a piece explaining that there would be no phony things-to-be-thankful-for-Thanksgiving columns coming from this department.

Then it hit me, despite my salty reputation I am actually thankful for a few things this Turkey Day.

I am giddy that I have to work on Thanksgiving, so I don't have to act like I'm riveted by the kid stories emanating from pseudo-relatives and "friends" that inevitably keep me from drinking beer and watching football. Meanwhile, I'm really jacked up that I am not going to be forced to wake by at 4 a.m. on Friday so I can save a couple hundred dollars at Best Buy's doorbuster sale.

It all falls apart Friday night, however. I'll still be a safe distance away from the holiday nonsense that doubles as the bane of my existence, but I will be at the Wachovia Center in south Philadelphia, taking in a Sixers' game.

If you haven't been subjected to it, Sixers' basketball has been virtually unwatchable this season.

New coach Eddie Jordan is a "system guy" that brought his Princeton offense to the City of Brotherly Love, with no intention of tweaking anything for anybody. He's not alone. In professional sports, "system coaches" are becoming more of a pandemic than the swine flu.

To me, great coaches in any sport slowly add talent that fits into what they want to accomplish (the system), while maximizing the strengths of their current players and masking as many of the deficiencies as possible. Coaches like that are virtually extinct these days.

It's all "my way or the highway" thinking and Jordan is the poster child for the "system coach."

Before Philadelphia played Jordan's former team, the Washington Wizards, on Tuesday, former All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas took the time to speak with reporters about Jordan's offense.

"You need five passers, five shooters," Arenas said. "Athletes don't work in that offense, to be honest."

Of course, the Sixers have one upper-echelon shooter, Jason Kapono, and a host of superlative athletes in Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Carney and Jrue Holiday.

But, instead of playing transition basketball, Jordan keeps hammering the square peg into the round hole.

"I call it the thinking man's offense. If you don't have a very high IQ, you're always going to be lost," Arenas added.

Some might call that an indictment of players like Iguodala, Young, Samuel Dalembert and Elton Brand, who have all taken a step back in Jordan's system.

I'll call it an indictment of a coach who doesn't have the IQ to figure out his players are better suited for something else.

Sixers' Williams has broken jaw

Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams was elbowed during last night's game against the Washington Wizards and x-rays taken today revealed a fractured jaw bone. Williams is listed as out for tonight's game at Boston and will be evaluated upon the team's return to Philadelphia tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Elton Brand (sore and tight right hamstring) is currently listed as a gametime decision for tonight at Boston.

Runyan heads to San Diego; will still run for Congress

Ex-Eagles Jon Runyan finally got an NFL gig, signing a one-year deal with the San Diego Chargers. The New Jersey still plans on running for Congress, however, as a Republican.

"Win or lose, these will be my final games as an NFL player," Runyan said in a statement. " I personally informed the Republican county chairmen . . . that after the season is over I plan to officially retire from football and pursue a campaign for the United States Congress."

Runyan plans to challenge Democratic Rep. John Adler next year in New Jersey's 3d Congressional District, a traditional Republican stronghold.

"I look forward to a successful end to my career on the field, and a spirited campaign against Congressman Adler in 2010."

Courson Perspective Ever Fresh for Doping in NFL, Culture

Steve Courson, an offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1977-85, was America's first professional athlete to fully disclose use of anabolic steroids for performance. Courson voluntarily told his story to Sports Illustrated almost 25 years ago as an active NFL player, detailing his juicing on 'roids from NCAA football into the league, then was blackballed from the game. Only a handful of elite athletes since Courson are comparable for open honesty in the issue; he spoke whole truth as he knew it, short of naming individuals.

By Matt Chaney

Posted November 24, 2009

For this writing I remember a fine friend in Steve Courson, who died in a tree-cutting accident on November 10, 2005, at age 50. As in sudden death, questions go unanswered for family and friends of Steve, particularly for his future lost. He was an extraordinary individual, vibrant and talented.

But no one has to wonder what Steve would say today about drugs in sport, the contemporary headlines of the issue he ruled.

Steve would let rip with the same talking points he'd built and honed by the final year of his life. After 20 years working the public debate over sport doping, he was expert like no other, with honesty and multi-experience keeping him at vortex of the volatile issue.

He began with simple anabolic-steroid use in major-college football, 1973, a teenager bent on winning, handed a doctor's prescription for Dianabol pills paid by the University of South Carolina. Steve graduated to studious abuse of steroids in pro football, injections within drug combinations, and he blew open the NFL's worst-kept secret in 1985: Unflinchingly, Steve discussed his steroid aid and football's systemic problem for a milestone story in Sports Illustrated, then the world's premier sporting publication.

Summarily tossed from the league, Steve was forced into retirement at age 31, but soon a devastating problem emerged: Doctors diagnosed him with dilated cardiomyopathy, damage to the heart's intricate muscle fibers. Steve suspected football lifestyle had spurred his grave illness, including steroid abuse, maniacal exertion, massive weight gain and alcohol abuse, and doctors placed him on a heart-transplant list for years.

As Steve fought through a slow recovery, he continued study of sport doping, meticulously documenting his argument for writings, speeches and media quotes. He saw a doping epidemic in American football, but pointed to a larger problem, pandemic in scope, the human embrace of drugs and more synthetics for enhancing physical performance and image. Twenty years ago, Steve charged the grandest hypocrisy lay in cultural affinity to blame mere individuals, a dangerous denial prone to manifest in ugly spectacles such as media and lawmaker floggings of the few athletes exposed for muscle doping.

He met teens and parents on a speaking circuit, informing them about PEDs, attesting to inherent risks for mind and body. All the while he existed barely above poverty level, beset by medical bills while losing $500,000 in bad investments. He was obese and in fragile state, bloated above 300 pounds due to medical procedures and inability to exercise stressfully.

Steve testified for Congress a first time in 1989, and he penned journal articles and book chapters on drug history in sport. In 1991 he produced False Glory [Longmeadow Press], his first-person account of brutal personal compromise for excelling in football--such as the athlete's submission to drug use. The book was critically acclaimed but didn't sell well, lacking tell-all sensationalism because Steve wouldn't name his drug cohorts in football, including superstars. He received just a few thousand dollars for years of book research and writing.

Steve regained health, year by year. Eventually doctors removed him from the transplant list, and they declared his condition completely reversed in 2004. With a clean bill of health, not to mention an incredibly cut body at 245 pounds, Steve proudly ended his modest disability compensation from the NFL and players union.

Meanwhile, Steve gained overdue recognition as a foremost expert on doping, while BALCO revelations led a torrent of scandalous news about athletes, actors, musicians, police officers and more public figures. Steve was a busy man in 2005, writing, speaking, granting interviews, and he testified on Capitol Hill for a final time.

Steve and I conversed frequently that year, mostly via telephone and daily in some stretches. Periodically, I interviewed him on-record for my book on muscle drugs in football, taping about 20 hours of discussion between us. I had much in common with Steve, as a former steroid user in college football [1982, Southeast Missouri State] who had also moved into study, writing and speaking openly on the problem.

This essay features Steve's perspective on doping topics at end of his life, culled from interviews with me. Most comments were previously unpublished, with a portion appearing in my recent book, Spiral of Denial.

Steve's views resonate today, relevant yet, and that is in part for his expertise, a credit to him. But their power lives too because nothing has reversed rampant doping in Steve's wake, and that is discredit to human nature.

Steve's on-record comments are juxtaposed with current doping events or scandal springing from the same maladies of his time. Topics include the following: invalid testing or useless anti-doping; undetectable substances like human growth hormone and low-dose testosterone; health and disability; obfuscation by officials in sport and anti-doping; hedged insider confessions or acknowledgments, and outright denial by athletes, media and fans; and future implosion for the football institution over player sizes, drugs, secrecy, medical costs and liability. Steve does empathize for the athlete's dilemma with PEDs, and his life demonstrates honesty can imperil more than a jock's personal sporting legend.

Timely comments even cover Mark McGwire, who's spent most this decade in seclusion, evading questions about his apparent doping in baseball. Steve's insider advice is still useful to McGwire, particularly for the disgraced slugger's pending news conference, certain to be a fiery reentry to public life as Cardinals hitting coach.

Truth and denial
In 2005 Steve Courson loved the comedy parade of lying athletes, their outrageous denials against allegations or queries regarding performance-enhancing substances. Steve's voice and laugh were deep, booming within a closed room, and he roared at baseball star Sammy Sosa's televised act before Congress, when the outgoing Dominican suddenly got quiet, halting at steroid questions under oath, nervously twiddling pages of his prop English primer.

Steve anticipated the Sosa reaction for typical juicing jocks caught red-handed, their mumbling and stammering in acknowledgments that were incomplete, dubious, nonsensical or downright silly. "When you look at all the people who have talked about this...," Steve said, "it's either they did it for an injury; they didn't realize it was a steroid; it was a [tainted] supplement; or they just did it once. I mean, they're at the point of looking ridiculous."

Steve would howl at today's clownish stars of the so-called full confessional, like Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in baseball. Whining and crying about "making a mistake" with PEDs has gained popularity among athletes, especially those facing public pressure based on strong evidence of guilt. Jocks might only vaguely recall their doping, yet they reap public-relations return by deflating scandal.

But flimsy excuses, Steve would actually understand. He didn't condemn an active athlete for evasion or outright denial. Foremost, Steve contended the modern athlete turns to PEDs for merely competing in a drug-soaked environment.

Besides, openness was hazardous. In strictly pragmatic terms, Steve recommended the tainted athlete to decline comment, reveal nothing for career sake--or opt for that fake contrition by issuing cheesy excuse and apology. Steve used himself as example for honesty's consequences, his lost opportunity and finances over speaking out, which provoked football forces and their tentacle influence throughout society.

"I've gone through 20 years of bullshit, for speaking just the truth," he said a few months before his death. "And it's the truth that everyone knew. I'm still trying to figure out what happened. ... What about punishing teams for the discretions of their players? Because don't be foolish enough to believe their coaches don't know."

Image preservation for the lying or evasive athlete, Steve insisted, is motivated by security concern as much as ego or vanity. And within doping hysteria of 2000s America, the user athlete must worry about grand juries, criminal charges, and summons by politicians to testify. Just a few celebrity athletes caught doping feed the political processes for years.

"We realize that we live in a very image-conscious society," Steve said, "and nowhere in society is image more paramount than the world of sport. It's everything, for whatever reason, and nobody wants to compromise his image because of the stigma associated with steroid use."

Sport and society trash individual athletes who get caught as "part of the institutional strategy," Steve said. "Basically, the theory of 'a few bad apples' has been historically employed as sports propaganda. Therefore, when you consider all those factors, and then you combine 'em with the fact that, as of 1990, [steroids are] against the law, and the huge money involved, [denial] shouldn't surprise anybody."

However, Steve wouldn't have done differently in spring 1985, when SI investigator reporter Jill Lieber called him cold to ask whether he used steroids. He still would've answered, "Yes."

"I look at it this way...," he recalled. "Here I was, responding to my [football] environment, and I had the love-hate relationship with the drugs. I loved what they did for my training, but I hated compromising myself to a system where I felt I had to do it to retain my employment. ... I felt like I was in no-man's land. I just felt caught."

Steve wasn't subject to steroid punishment by the NFL; the league hadn't yet devised a policy. But he was bound by the game's code of silence, especially regarding widespread steroid use, and he was sick of it.

"The game is full of compromises," he said. "We compromise ourselves when we go to training camp. We'd rather be at the beach. We compromise when we have some jerk-off coach run you down in front of your teammates, humiliate you, because it's all part of making the team better, and you hold yourself back. You compromise when they stick the pain-killing needle into your knee when they need you to play. So the drugs are just another compromise."

"And, for me in 1985, I make all those compromises to play that game, and then I'm starting to have some health problems. ... I'm caught between these extremes here, and now I'm being asked to tell the truth about this. I'll compromise to a point, but I'm not going to lie about it. I was willing to compromise to do what I did, use the anabolic drugs."

"I would do all that for them [the NFL], but not lie for them."

User rationale
"To be honest, I liked playing football," Steve said in 2005. "Despite all the bullshit, I liked the game, you know. There's something about it; personally, it was the camaraderie, and the challenge of it. ... That continued to drive me to use the drugs, even though I got to the point where I didn't want to do 'em. I never really was that crazy about doing 'em, but then again... you invest all that time. You pour yourself totally into that game, it's real hard to step back."

"I think the big thing is--and what really gets obscured in all this, as far as athletes--athletes respond to their environment. If you look at my drug use throughout my career, I responded to my environment and my challenges. ... When you talk to most athletes, nobody likes [PEDs] but they feel they have to. And I think that is pretty universal."

Entering college football at age 17, Steve was already a wonder of genetics and work ethic, a great package of speed, power and size at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, with 4.7-second time in the 40-yard dash. But he still needed drug augmentation, to succeed as a lineman in the big time.

A self-taught weightlifter in the 1960s and early 1970s, Steve bench-pressed 400 pounds as a senior in high school Then, at South Carolina, "I was just thrust into an environment where I was up against bigger, older guys, as a young kid," he said. "I knew I had to get bigger to do what I needed to do... . By the time I got to SC, strength-wise I'd pretty much hit the wall. I could've gotten bigger over time when I was in college, but I probably only would've gained 10 more pounds."

Encouraged toward steroids by a young assistant coach, Steve did only a six-week cycle of standard 5-milligram Dianabol tablets, therapeutic dosage, while training intensely and gorging on food. His genetically gifted body really responded to the drugs; his 40 time improved to 4.5, his bench press increased 50 pounds, and his weight expanded 30 to a size, mostly lean mass, that he maintained the rest of college football.

He upped the cycle of D-bol in the summer 1977, as a fifth-round draft pick of the Steelers, consuming one 15-mg tab daily for six weeks. "The second cycle, which I thought was huge at the time, I was so naive; that was less than a lot of women sprinters use today. So, in retrospect, I was near a 500-pound bench [press] with dosages of steroids that were actually minuscule."

"And when did my drug use take the next big leaps? When I was competing in the NFL strong-man competitions. Then, toward the end of my career, being regarded as one of the stronger players and competing in powerlifting."

By 1982 Steve was versed in steroid how-to information and had gathered anecdotal advice from juicers throughout football and weightlifting. He stacked multiple injectable and oral steroids in protocols considered state-of-art for the time, with his body weight reaching 285 pounds for the Steelers and his bench press around 575. With 405 on the bar, he cranked out 14 repetitions.

I asked Steve: "You never felt you were getting that far ahead of anybody? Your increasing use of steroids, to the point of abuse, was a response to your escalating environments?"

He laughed. "Well, part of it was response, but response in wanting to dominate. I was not there to bring up the trail."

"And who is content to be just an NFL special-teams guy, or third-teamer?" I suggested.

No one, Steve affirmed. "That's why unless they develop a testing technology that's foolproof, don't even think those drugs are going anywhere."

Steve didn't believe valid testing was possible without a fortune in funding for research and development. In 1989 he told Congress that doping's popular solution of the moment, random urinalysis, couldn't work effectively against techniques such as undetectable HGH, low-dose testosterone and designer steroids. During that period, Steve advocated open use of muscle drugs for elite athletes, under doctor supervision, but later abandoned the stance for concern about teenagers and modeling effect.

By 2005, Steve saw steroids as having saturated prep football, based on evidence that included invalid prevention, Internet accessibility, street dealers, and news reports. Moreover, he privately discussed the matter with teens, parents and coaches.

"Today, it starts in high school," he said. "[Teen players] learn about the drugs and how they work. Then they learn about beating detection in college football, and by the time any get to the NFL, they've learned how to be tested and they know the score."

Invalid testing, red herring of anti-doping

The stark fact of sport doping in continuum, now spanning generations of competitors such as fathers and sons in football, is that higher-aspiring athletes are confronted by the question of whether to employ anabolic steroids and more tissue-building hormones.

The athlete's drug dilemma typically begins in teen years, during high school, and always by college. Often a parent, relative or family friend is the persuasive informant and first source for muscle drugs, primarily steroids and costly HGH, according to news reports and information I've gathered for years from witnesses speaking off-record.

Yet America wants to believe that testing is effective against muscle doping in sport, particularly beloved football, our cultural religion of brute violence most conducive to drug use.

And America tries to frame the doping football player within a familiar, foolish stereotype: the isolated individual committed to cheating against the large majority dedicated to fair play--or the majority afraid to juice because testing is so effective, as testing promoters spin it.

This dangerous misconception is nurtured along by the officials of anti-doping, or sport organizers and testing contractors, since advent of steroid urinalysis at the 1976 Olympic Games. In football and all sport, steroid testing is a false hope that serves to absolve the system, blame players alone, and promote societal denial.

Meanwhile, muscle drugs roll on in football, a half-century since Dianabol's release, sweeping up new young players annually by the thousands, all levels. Guys keep getting bigger, deadlier for themselves as well as peers, and Steve wouldn't be surprised.

"The industry wants athletes to compete in a win-at-all-costs environment, which means they're gonna take drugs, yet pretend that they're not," he said in 2005.

Steve believed, as I do, that athletes would overwhelmingly support valid anti-doping--including monitoring that invaded privacy like year-round testing--as long as the vast majority could truly play clean and compete. That's impossible, unfortunately, for the near term and likely forever.

Conventional testing is unequivocally fault-ridden, subject to methods of evasion that include timing patented steroids around scanning periods, or employing undetectable substances year-round. Low-dose testosterone and growth hormone fly under conventional screening.

The so-called HGH blood test ballyhooed by Olympic and WADA officials is woefully inadequate, say experts, for problems such as high cost and a detection window of only hours following an athlete's use. More methodological cracks are unlikely to withstand a court challenge, particularly the test's lack of vetting by independent scientists. The prominent naysayers include two testing experts associated with WADA, Dr. Don Catlin and Dr. Peter Sonksen. Indeed, WADA hasn't announced one suspension for HGH despite years of blood sampling among thousands of Olympic athletes.

Unknown designer steroids are undoubtedly in circulation, with anti-doping authorities having identified about three in a quarter-century of the ghostly drugs. Catlin calculates 2,000 varieties are possible.

And the grandiose, expensive, struggling new initiative of blood-profiling, purported to identify drug use without reliance on chemical or bio signatures, offers no potential for helping the masses of amateur athletes. Even if such monitoring works effectively and can overcome legal challenges--critics say likely not on both counts--it is cost-prohibitive for deployment among a vast population such as American football, which includes about 1.5 million teen players scattered among 15,000 school districts.

Bottom line in football, anti-doping does not protect the player from drugged rivals, despite the 1994 California court ruling that testing must ensure athletes' safety and competitive fairness--the compelling mission that appellate judges determined supersedes individual right of privacy.

HGH in football
Growth hormone was used in NFL and NCAA football by 1985, players later reported, but Steve didn't encounter it until after retiring. "It was late '87, beginning of '88. I was training because I was thinking about pro wrestling. I was hittin' the gym and hittin' [steroids] again, and I would periodically run into some of the current players. Through interaction with them, I was clued in that some were using HGH. That was the first time they were facing non-punitive drug testing in the NFL."

"From what I understand, growth hormone works better when you supplement it with an androgen like testosterone." Steve noted the 2000s Carolina Panthers players who received HGH and steroids from Dr. James Shorrt, the South Carolina physician convicted of illegal dispensing and sentenced to a year in prison. During football season, Shortt provided some Panthers with multiple units of testosterone cream, which helps defeat testing on only hours' notice.

Low-dose testosterone and HGH are the most desired combination for beating testing in the NFL and NCAA football, according to news accounts, off-record sources of mine, and those whom Steve regularly consulted. In the cyber chat world, steroid forums, posters identify themselves as NCAA players and discuss "test" and "growth" for circumventing drug scans, among methods. Prep players join in, asking questions.

This only reflects culture, again. These days I meet many Average Joes on the juice for looks, weight loss, health, whatever they rationalize. They range in age from 20 to 50-somethings. I haven't juiced again since one steroid cycle in college ball, and I'm content with my body today at 6-2 and a solid 190. I diet well and still work out strenuously, despite hindrance of football injuries.

But in 20 years I'll hopefully reach 70 years old, and ask me then what I might try for hormone replacement and muscle restoration. Heck, ask me in 10 years, at age 60.

Many old footballers like the juice for hormone replacement, feeling younger and healthy, they believe. And synthetic or "recombinant" HGH is favored, as a biosimilar or DNA clone, versus synthetic testosterone and anabolic steroids considered harsher reacting.

Anonymous inside sources of mine and those Steve consulted contend many NFL retirees inject muscle drugs after their playing days, including some TV broadcasters, and published reports support the grapevine talk. Former lineman Brad Leggett and Ed Lothamer openly discussed their HGH use with journalists, and former quarterback Wade Wilson confirmed use after police disclosed his purchase from Internet dealers. In 2006, then-Steelers physician Dr. Richard A. Rydze purchased large HGH quantities from a cyber pharmacy, and investigators said an NFL retiree was mentioned among Rydze's clients for the drug, according to reporter Mike Fish of Police probes also fingered active and injured players for acquiring HGH online: safety Rodney Harrison and quarterback Tim Couch.

Rumors of active players swirl about the anti-aging industry, and Steve heard names while looking into legal prescriptions of HGH and testosterone for himself in 2003. He was 48 in age, 15 years removed from his last cycle of steroids. "I was contemplating hormone-replacement therapy as a way to reverse the last of my cardiomyopathy," he said. "I talked to an anti-aging clinic not too far from me [in western Pennsylvania], and their main headquarters was in Palm Springs. I was testing the waters and getting information, still trying to make up my mind if I wanted to do this, before I decided against it.

"Well, in having a phone conversation with one of the main honchos in Palm Springs... he mentioned off-the-cuff a couple NFL [active] guys that they were providing with growth hormone. They were his clients. He said it real nonchalantly and they were big names. We're talkin' major names."

For decades NFL officials and players tried to deny growth-hormone use in the league, despite no test and mass marketing of the synthetic versions. Only a few players publicly alleged a problem existed, notably Howie Long, All-Pro defensive lineman of the 1980s and early '90s.

Official rhetoric has altered slightly under commissioner Roger Goodell, who succeeded Paul Tagliabue in 2006, but players and management stick to humorous claims. Union president Troy Vincent said genetic wonders inhabit the league, not juicers, suggesting baseball has more growth-hormone users than pro football.

Goodell says he doesn't believe significant use occurs in the NFL, and currently he explores the possibility of outsourcing league testing to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, WADA's American arm. The possibility is intriguing on several fronts, including that USADA utilizes the toothless test for HGH, which could obscure pro football's problem by churning out false-negative results, or data insufficient for withstanding legal challenge from affluent jocks.

Steve recognized the politics going down four years ago, when congressional heavies like Rep. Henry Waxman began suggesting pro sports should adopt "uniform" or "Olympic" testing. Government-funded and -influenced WADA and USADA lobby incessantly for gaining testing of pro sports, and the agencies are handy red herring as a "solution" for politicians such as Waxman.

Lawmakers bungle the issue today like their predecessors of 1989, when Congress promoted faulty random urinalysis for its adoption by the NFL and NCAA. Steve dealt with both fiascoes on Capitol Hill. "After two trips to Washington and analyzing information, it isn't hard to figure this out," he said. "What I see this going to, there's going to be a little play in Congress, because they have to, ya know, as far as the public goes. And they may push to get [NFL testing] under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That depends legally what's going on. ... But life will go on." And athletes will continue roaming the no-man's land Steve had inhabited, feeling unprotected, unable to resist doping.

"How would average Americans like going to work every day, knowing or feeling that they had to use a drug to compete in their workplace, yet couldn't freely talk about it," Steve said. "It's fucked up. The coercive aspect of it, it's terrible."

Football physiques, risks and disability
As a one-cycle juicer in college football, or a "dabbler" in steroid parlance, I didn't believe mere use doomed anyone to the proverbial bad end. I knew football was hazardous for my longterm, with my injuries of knee dislocation and nerve damage, but not 2,000 milligrams of testosterone injected over five weeks.

Later, analyzing sport doping during the 1990s, I sought conclusive proof of serious health consequences for steroid abuse. I wanted information to document my belief such extreme behavior was harmful, but no evidence transpired in the literature of clinical research.

Mainstream media were replete with claims that sounded plausible, such as the stricken Lyle Alzado, declaring his 22 years of crazy juicing caused fatal cancer. But there was no proof or expert consensus, and Alzado was rebuked by medical scientists for directly attributing his brain tumor to anabolic steroids. He died in 1992.

I considered the steroid users I knew in sport and bodybuilding, many longtime users and abusers. There were suspect signs in the worst cases, including an cardiac angina episode for one, but only acute effects of hormone cycling were apparent, hair loss, irritability, and pimply, pock-marked skin. I saw none of the health mayhem and death thrown about in typical news about steroids. Not even one certifiable 'roid rage, among juicers I knew. And thus my references to health hazards became less pronounced for public writings and media interviews about doping.

Steve Courson classified the rhetoric of exaggerated risk as "scare tactics," a manifestation of society's shallow moralizing against use that doesn't fool anyone seriously considering PEDs, particularly teens.

Sport's children of risk always see through the smokescreens about supposed dangers. Young athletes are determined and calculated for achieving success, and they know what's up with PEDs. In football, players don't see drugs kill and deform people over the short term, only peers who juice and thrive. "The fine line with kids is presenting facts in a balanced way, not overstating or understating reality, because kids will turn you off," Steve said. "If you give them one thing that's wrong, then they won't believe anything you've told them."

Getting to know Steve in 2005, I was impressed by his intellectual handling of health risks in doping. Steve had little use for supposition in his arguments, and he ignored common claims of deadly risks with steroids. I could have expected differently.

A decade previous, Steve sued the Bert Bell Fund of the NFLPA over his cardiomyopathy, seeking full disability compensation instead of the minimal amount he received, around $20,000 annually. Steve's lawsuit alleged steroids and other factors of pro football led to his condition, including alcohol abuse the institution encouraged. The civil action occurred in the 1990s, America's no-look decade for steroids in sport, and Steve was unpopular in the public arena, characterized as an ingrate jock attempting to rob the NFL for his own abuse of steroids and alcohol. He lost the court case too, for lack of supporting evidence.

Steve moved forward, seeking steroid-related information that he could stand on in persuasion about dangers. I was moving parallel with Steve in the issue, as my work blew up in the 1990s through study for my grad degree, capitalizing on electronic search of news and other databases.

By the time Steve and I finally collaborated, both of us were focused on football's increasing player sizes as risk for all levels. Reason or cause for the behemoth physiques wasn't our foremost concern, although anabolic drugs were the singlemost explanation, according to experts such as our mutual friend and associate Dr. Charles E. Yesalis, epidemiologist at Penn State.

A wealth of research and expert opinion supported our stance that physiques of American football were a health scourge, whether too-big players were obese, muscular, or a combination thereof. Some sports columnists argued similarly, including Rick Telander, Chicago, Dan O'Neill, St. Louis, and Sam Donnellon, Philadelphia. Then football-focused research hit the news, concluding most pro players qualified as overweight or obese according to criteria for the Body Mass Index; another study would produce correlate findings about prep lineman in Iowa. Thus hazards of football sizes were a presumption at that point, hardly debatable to the contrary.

Nevertheless, doctors and researchers affiliated with football did disagree, and so did NFL officials, claiming more information was required for conclusive judgment. Steve didn't care what they said.

"No matter what they do, they can't shut down the monster," he said. "They don't really understand, nor do they want to. But guys are continuing to get bigger and continuing to press the envelope. ... The issues of size are going to take their toll, if not immediately on the field, then not so later in life. But you're going to see somebody have a stroke or a heart attack right there on the field."

Prevailing evidence and opinion confirmed a range of potential maladies for excess weight, especially fat, while obesity could lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and osteo-arthritis. During 2005, Steve expanded his crusade against obesity, viewing it as national health crisis and proposing that "eliminating obesity would put a massive dent in those needing early advanced health care."

For immediate danger and toll, super-sized dudes pounded each other on NFL fields, pulverizing bone, tissue, brain matter. Injuries were an issue, as always, including cases of paralysis, and debate on football concussions was firing up.

Steve saw drugs' imprint on the grid carnage, steroids, growth hormone and more. "Anyone who can think knows that players are bio-chemical machines, basically killer drones," he said. "I knew back in '82 and '83, when I really started getting into the anabolics, that I was a lethal machine at that point, with my parameters of size and speed. On or off the field I could really hurt somebody, and that scared even me."

Contemporary players really frightened Steve. Standard weights at his old guard position were 40, 50 pounds heavier, 310 to 325. NFL players weighing 300 were scarce in Steve's time, a few dozen perhaps; now about 400 players in training camps topped the mark, and some linemen pushed 400 on the scale. Steve was awed by the huge quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linebackers, defensive backs. Modern players were so much bigger and athletic, surely employing stuff Steve had never used. "It's combination of 'growth' and anabolics--an androgen with GH," he estimated of the key difference.

Easy to understood why modern quarterbacks would "gear up" like anybody else. "Look at the shots they take from some of those creatures coming across the field," Steve said. "What I'd be worried about is somebody hitting me like an outside linebacker, about 260 running a 4.5. The D-linemen wouldn't scare me as much as those freakin' missiles coming at you now."

Steve figured collision death would soon strike a modern NFL player, killing him in the ferocious contact. "Amazing it hasn't happened yet," he said. "Fans and media want to see the big hit, but then everybody wants to see the guy get up. The entertainment's good, as long as you're not out there."

Steve also worried about NFL retirees, the serious illnesses and death haunting his age group and younger--or the generations most prone to drug use in the pharmaceutical age.

In just four months, from Christmas 2004 through mid-April 2005, six retirees died in their 40s of natural causes: Reggie White, Charles Martin, Reggie Roby, Todd Bell, David Little, and Sam Mills. None was ever accused publicly of drug use, and causes listed included heart disease, sleep apnea and cancer. Steve had his drug suspicions regarding the group as a whole, but he was more concerned with BMI ratings. All the men played pro ball as large specimens, per their respective standing heights, and several competed much heavier than healthy weights prescribed by the Body Mass Index. Steve viewed the sobering run of individual tragedies as another jolt of reality for widespread malaise, more rumbling of the big earthquake ahead for football.

"What I fear about the NFL, the bodies are just going to implode," Steve said. "Especially now that we're at the doorstep of genetic engineering. We're walking into a very scary bio-technical world."

Steve was transfixed on the growing battle over disability between retirees and the NFL, with concussions and permanent brain damage at the forefront of public discussion. Steve's own harrowing past was one thing, but he still grieved for close friend Mike Webster, a distressing story of dementia, depression, sensory loss and drug abuse. The Hall of Fame center was the iconic muscled lineman for the 1970s "Men of Steel," four-time Super Bowl champions, but "Webbie" died at age 50 in 2002, destitute.

Some friends said Webster was scattered in reasoning by his final years in pro football at Kansas City. His cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but the Webster family sued for retroactive compensation over his brain damage and won, claiming a judgment of almost $2 million from the NFLPA's retirement and disability board. The lengthy, acrimonious case set legal precedent for claims by more retirees.

Webster had several personal issues involved, Steve said, including dependence on painkillers and amphetamines. During the court case, medical documents disclosed Webster's "experimental" steroid use with the Steelers. "Now it's out there that he used steroids," Steve said. "The bottom line with Mike Webster, it's a real shame. Here's a guy that gave 17 years to the league, and you know the reason why he's no longer with us: The fact that the win-at-all-costs mentality in football, as much as anything, killed that man. The combination of the head, the medication, everything that went on; I mean, he's the prime example. We still don't want to be honest about the reality of what goes on out there. ... It's got to be embarrassing for the [Steelers] organization. It has to. That was so unnecessary."

Steve knew untold victims remained among retiree ranks, and while the NFL and union constituted a billion-dollar entertainment enterprise, Steve calculated there wasn't enough money to go around for adequate compensation. And the game's violent maw kept spitting out casualties, from preps to pro, thousands annually.

"The problems aren't going to be straightened out; I'm more convinced of this than ever, of what's going to happen," Steve said. "The machine basically eats its own, and it's going to end up self-destructing."

Drug openness, safety reform--or football implosion
Steve Courson granted an honesty mulligan for active athletes caught doping, as long as none got ridiculous enough to insult him in their denial.

But he objected to dishonesty or evasion by former jocks, especially NFL retirees who spoke publicly about muscle doping without remotely allowing what they knew. Steve's conflict with former Steeler teammates on the matter is well-documented among his autobiography, my book, and news accounts published by The Baltimore Sun and, reporters Jeff Barker and Mike Fish, respectively.

"Jockocrats" really irked Steve, the breed defined by sport critic and author Robert Lipsyte. These ex-NFLers were blessed with lucrative jobs post-football, yakking on television around games drawing boffo audience. Jockos were notorious as league apologists at the hint of doping scandal, or saying nothing at all. Moreover, Steve heard of one Jockocrat, at least, who used growth hormone for appearances sake. I also became acquainted with one who confirmed his HGH use.

On March 25, 2005, Steve raged about ESPN analyst and former Pittsburgh running back Merril Hoge, who vocally defended legendary coach Chuck Noll and old Steeler teams against steroid allegations from Jim Haslett, Saints head coach. Haslett admitted his juicing as a player and in the process implicated Steeler teams and even Steve by name. Steve didn't mind, and he commended Haslett for honesty during a live satellite interview on ESPN's "Cold Pizza" show.

Hoge followed Steve on camera, from the studio, disparaging Haslett and portraying Noll as vocally anti-steroid. Afterward, Steve fumed in an interview with me. "Merril was basically giving the company line, going through how Chuck Noll was always against this, and I'm biting my tongue," Steve said. "I'm thinking: 'Yeah, Merril, but why in 1989, when you were in Pittsburgh, did the Steelers draft Tom Ricketts and Craig Veasey, who had tested positive for steroids in the first and third rounds? And [there was] Terry Long, who tried to commit suicide after he tested positive. Chuck Noll never knew anything about this, huh? If Chuck Noll were so much against this, then why were all the guys who were taking steroids on the field, playing? Why weren't they sitting on the fucking bench? Gimme a break, you can't be that stupid."

"The lying is just so pathetic, and now it's being shown for how pathetic it really is... the hypocrisy is obviously driven by money."

Steve believed retirees' silence on steroids was already turning against them in the tempest over disability. The festering complete truth on drugs, he said, required addressing by retirees in discussing their ailments tied to football. Retirees talked publicly on almost any negative topic, but, like active players, few said anything material about steroids or growth hormone. Lack of openness about muscle doping was emblematic of wider denial by the football institution that approached fatal phase in the 2000s, we both believed, for varied issues that included medical costs.

Today, four years after Steve's death, the decade closes amid world economic crisis. American football already could be at brink of wholesale change, major downsizing, depending on fluid state of the insurance industry. Perhaps only costly private clubs and leagues can mean long survival for the sport, removed from public schools and colleges.

Contrary to popular belief, football isn't birth rite of the American male. Football doesn't even pay its own bills for damages, the multitude of knee injuries, concussions, unhealthy physiques, drug abuse and more. Insurance and healthcare pick up the slack and pass it on to consumers in higher costs.

Football is expensive indulgence for every American, fan or hater, and its doping problem will not continue unchecked forever. Ridiculous player sizes will ensure that. "They've gone too far with it as it is," Steve said, referring to the game institution, all personnel and associates. "They know drug testing can't solve their problem, it's just whether their greed and arrogance is going to kill 'em. ... Litigation is gonna kill 'em."

Steve and I didn't believe all was hopeless, however. Adopting size limits in football could provide immediate relief by capping use of anabolic substances, turning back obesity, and reducing injuries. Our general plan would restrict body weights according to the BMI, per individual frames. For example, a 6-foot-2 player could be allowed 25 percent above his highest normal BMI weight, or a limit of about 242 pounds for game eligibility.

But no good step is possible without first a revolutionary turnabout on self-disclosure by football, unprecedented public discussion. "Basically, you have to owe up to the cartoon," Steve said. "And for decades, the carton has been assisted with anabolic drugs. Hello."

Homerun PR tips for McGwire
Certainly when provoked, Steve Courson's razor criticism shredded jocks who dope and hide, cutting through facades to their core motives. But Steve was also a former big-time athlete who juiced; he had empathy. And he remained a fan of games and competitors, all ages.

Steve enjoyed Major League Baseball, and in 1998 he was like most Americans, mesmerized with the homerun drama of Mark McGwire versus Sammy Sosa, superstar sluggers of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

McGwire and Sosa were even good buddies, proclaimed their attendant media flock, and the loving rivals hugged and back-slapped for cameras en route to obliterating Roger Maris' season homer record. Multiple media documented practically every move of the duo except drug use, and Steve consumed the happy mythology like everyone else.

Steve was sure Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy were juicers, heavy ones given their looks, and he wasn't surprised when AP reporter Steve Wilstein revealed McGwire used "andro," the anabolic-androgenic steroid. That didn't spoil the grand show for Steve, and America blasted the snooping reporter, not beloved Big Mac.

"The McGwire-Sosa thing? I knew what time it was. And I loved it!" Steve later recalled. Having no children himself, Steve took his cherished nephew to see McGwire in Pittsburgh, arriving early at the ballpark to witness Mac's unforgettable moon shots in batting practice.

Steve was fascinated of Big Mac legend in particular, anointing McGwire the quintessential figure for modern games. Sport was premier entertainment in the new world of perpetual media, having eclipsed Hollywood in pop culture, and McGwire was bigger than Brad Pitt. Steve, former calculated juicer of the NFL, ranked McGwire vintage '98 for epic stardom in sport, on par with Ruth, Jordan, Gretzky, Louis, spanning the century of celebrity athletes.

For historic talent in his time, McGwire combined natural athleticism, work ethic, mental preparation, and cutting-edge technology--especially drugs. Otherwise, Big Mac mania wouldn't have happened for the world. Steve couldn't have fathomed it.

So Steve was disappointed in the utter fall from grace for McGwire, who bottomed in Washington, D.C., on March 17, 2005. A shrunken, cowering former athlete, Mac sniffed around steroid questions under oath, refusing to answer directly.

McGwire's disastrous appearance before Congress surprised Steve, who'd expected him to tell the truth, especially in light of the revelations from Jose Canseco's tell-all book Juiced and a New York Daily News expose that unleashed convincing allegations that Canseco and McGwire juiced together at Oakland in the early 1990s.

Canseco wrote of personally using steroids with McGwire on multiple occasions, and former FBI informants who had played roles in the FBI steroid sting Operation Equine of the early 1990s linked McGwire to a steroid dealer and training guru named Curtis Wenzlaff. The informants said Canseco and McGwire used steroids and protocols supplied by Wenzlaff, and one informant detailed a stacking recipe allegedly employed by the ballplayers.

The ballplayers weren't questioned--the FBI was going after suppliers, not users--but the new information silenced any question of McGwire's doping as far as Steve was concerned.

The night before McGwire testified, Steve played the role of advisor in an on-the-record interview with me, hypothetically recommending the proper approach for the cornered jock to take at Congress. Although McGwire didn't take Steve's advice to be open and honest, that advice remains useful for the disgraced hero, since McGwire, named the Cardinals hitting coach by manager Tony La Russa, will face questions and challenges by the time spring training opens in February, if not sooner.

"There's times in life where you've got to speak your piece," Steve told me on March 16, 2005. "And if I were McGwire, this is what I would say: 'Yeah, I doped, and I feel embarrassed by it. But I did it in part to enhance my own ability, my own training, and to make myself a better ballplayer. I also did in part to help the game of baseball be more entertaining.' If he would say that, I think the public could handle it."

"I think people would appreciate it if he came clean, finally," I said.

"And explained why he did it," Steve reiterated. "He could explain in terms that everybody could understand. Explain that he denied it for so long because he didn't want little kids following his route."

"But baseball's spiral of silence about doping," I noted. "McGwire's bound by the code--"

"No, he's not," Steve answered quickly. "He's retired... he's got no excuse. I'm sorry."

E-mail: For more information on Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit

Philly’s local MMA scene: coming into focus?

By Charles Cieri

Former champions and Philly natives Wilson Reis and Tara LaRosa made their local debuts Friday night in Locked in the Cage 1 (LC1)- a promotion that was a step up for Philadelphia’s local Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) scene. But is it something we should bother getting used to?

Last August, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 101 unleashed BJ Penn and Anderson Silva on a sold out Wachovia Center, UFC President Dana White told me he wanted to be back in Philly within a year. Fair enough, but the burning question was beyond White- when was Philadelphia going to establish its own respectable and self-sustaining MMA competitions?

It didn’t look promising; of the known promoters, most were out-of-towers with big files. Local vets of the fight game would knock down name after name- ‘he’s a scumbag’ or ‘he’s connected to that celebrity boxing fiasco’ and ‘that guy never paid his fighters,’ etc.

Needless to say, on my drive out to the show, I wasn’t expecting a night at the big joint with the UFC’s mix of talent, glitz and grit.

LC1 took place in Alexander Hall, a banquet room at the end of an alleyway-sized street. I had to check the zip code of the East Falls address to confirm that this was still technically Philadelphia.

No surprises so far, since UFC 101, the city’s most notable fight took place at the Airport Ramada Inn between Rodney King and an PA police officer with a ‘shoot now, ask questions later’ attitude.

Once inside (the complex is much nicer then the street leading to it), LC1 was everything a local fight should be: it had amateur fights to serve as a proving ground for those who can compete as well as those with something less to prove. Jack Duncan doesn’t yet know what group he falls into, but the young teacher/counselor at Glenn Mills (a school for court adjudicated male delinquents) said MMA helps him break though to his students, many of whom hail from Kensington and North Philly. He earned his first win on a unanimous decision.

On the Pro-side, Team Balance’s Timmy Williams debuted against Jamall Johnson. The 185 pounders splashed around before ending up on the ground with Johnson on Williams’ back. Williams showed poise and worked out before reversing positions and leaving Johnson faded with a rear naked choke(see below).

Wilson Reis was next up and while he hasn’t yet returned to the form of a year ago when crisp takedowns lead to suffocating jiu-jitsu, he still had too much grappling savvy for Dwayne Shelton. In addition, his striking game continued to show improvement, this time in the form of ground and pound. Shelton matched up well and probably earned himself some future work by forcing Reis from many transitions he would normally breeze through. The grappling chess match didn't turn off the crowd, who seemed well-versed in the science and didn’t boo or yell for a standup. By the end, Shelton was withering and Reis finished out the third round by standing in his opponent's guard and drawing blood with big strikes, ensuring the unanimous decision.

Tara LaRosa continued to roll along with her 15th straight win over Valerie Coolbaugh. After LaRosa took an early shot to the face, things went to the ground where the girls were involved in some pretty brutal face mugging against the fence before LaRosa moved things away form the cage and went to work. A couple seconds later LaRosa was on the back sinking in a rear naked choke for the win.

Afterwards, things cleared out in an orderly fashion and both Reis and LaRosa were milling around- accessible to their fans. LaRosa said from the fighters standpoint, she was surprised to say there were no complaints. “Not all promotions run this nice,” she said immediately following her fight, “they really had their stuff together… everyone was pretty organized and I would do it again soon.”

This was no fight schlub squeezed into an airport hotel; not to say it wasn’t rough around the edges. The sound system was garbage, even up close, and the ring announcer was barely audible from the back row of the seating area. Both the website and the fight program had multiple careless mistakes and one fighter was a no show, leaving his opponent Taum Pham with nothing to do but apologize to the crowd.

But a few loose ends are par for the course. The event was a success both in its execution and its draw- which Fran Evans put at over 1,500 spectators. He insist that the event was a financial success as well although other promoters have doubted this claim. They say in private that LC1 sacrificed profit for notoriety- that, in reality, the event existed, not to make money but, only to launch the promoters on the scene with a bang. This wouldn’t diminish the success but would call into question the sustainability of the promoters. Regardless, the only people who know insist this assertion is wrong. “We didn’t make a killing but everyone was happy,” Evans said on Monday, “We wouldn’t have done it to loose money and get the name out there.”

Evans, a 2003 graduate of North Catholic High School in Philadelphia (he is only 25), is already on to the next show along with his partner Tara Galvin, who previously produced a fight at The Arena (a prestigious South Philly fight venue). Evans said he expects to match the talent of his LC1 card- however- he admits preferring more pro fights and less star power. In spite of this acknowledgment and his admission that Reis and LaRosa are tough gets because of their popularity, he expressed interest in bringing either or both back for the next event.

On the heels of this show, things look promising for the local MMA scene. But Philadelphians know better then to get their hopes up. We will sit and wait to see what more comes from the combination of Extreme Force and Bentley Promotions (if they combine- hopefully- they will chose a more timeless name then the obvious and enormously corny Extreme Bentley).

Check back for updates and headsup on this and other local developments.

Independence names Waxler associate general manager

PHILADELPHIA, PA (November 25, 2009) The Philadelphia Independence announces that Louise Waxler is joining its front office on December 1st as its Associate General Manager and Director of Operations.

Louise is recognized as one of the bedrock pioneers that has brought women’s professional soccer to the forefront of sports in the United States. Her credentials span executive leadership, operational planning and execution, and corporate construction, as well as sports PR and events management.

louise waxler

Team President/CEO David Halstead stated, “Louise brings to our organization a maturity in thinking about how to become fully integrated into the Philadelphia communities. She has successfully directed numerous women’s and youth soccer initiatives and understands all the key components required to deliver a superior fan experience to everyone following the Independence. She is well-known throughout the mid-Atlantic soccer world and strengthens our credibility in the areas of operations, venue management, player services, outreach programs, and youth development.”

Says team GM Terry Foley, “When we began advertising this position, we were hoping to find someone with Louise’s knowledge, expertise, reputation, established working relationships, and commitment to the success of women’s professional soccer. We could not have found a better candidate to fulfill these roles for our franchise. I have known and worked with Louise for many years, and there is no question that our staff, our fans, and the league will grow to appreciate Louise and what she does for us.”

For more than 20 years, Louise has served in key roles of professional and amateur sports management within the Maryland, DC, and Virginia soccer communities, as well as on the national and international levels for soccer expansion and governance. Most recently, she served as the Director of Operations for the WPS Washington Freedom where she managed all team, venue, and game day operations for the franchise. Louise has been a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) since 1991 and served in several distinctive positions within that organization, including President, Women’s Committee Chairperson, Youth Representative, and Board of Directors. She was Maryland’s FIFA Women’s World Cup National Coalition Chair and currently serves as Executive Vice President of the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association Board of Directors. Louise is widely recognized and respected for her experience running youth and professional sports and soccer events. She served as Director of the Washington Area Girls Soccer Tournament, RFK Stadium Director for Women’s World Cup Tournament, was a member of the staff at the Adidas/Disney International Youth Soccer Tournament, and served as Director of Discovery Cup Soccer Tournament and Columbia Invitational Soccer Tournament.

Eagles sign local player to practice squad

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Episcopal Academy's Greg Isdaner, an offensive lineman, to the practice squad.

Originally a rookie free agent signing of the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, Isdaner (6-3, 325) was released prior to the start of the regular season. The 23-year old played collegiately at West Virginia, where he was a three-year starter at left guard, blocking for five 1,000-yard rushers and earning ESPN first-team All-America Honors in 2008.

Isdaner was a three-year starter on the offensive line and defensive tackle, earning first-team All-Conference and All-Main Line honors at Episcopal in Merion, PA. He also lettered in basketball and lacrosse.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flyers' Briere suspended

The National Hockey League announced today that they have suspended Flyers center Danny Briere for two games for his hit on Avalanche defenseman Scott Hannan during Monday’s game at Colorado.

“We were informed that Danny Briere was suspended two games by the NHL for his hit last night on Scott Hannan,” said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. “It’s obviously disappointing to not have Danny in the lineup for the next few games, but it’s a decision that the league has come down with and we’ll live with it. We look forward to having Danny back in the lineup in two games.”

“I respect the decision,” said Briere. “I’ll live with it, and try to move on after the two-game suspension.”

The Flyers will have no further comment regarding this suspension.

McMahon looking to buy into UFC

WWE executive VP of Global Media Shane McMahon is interested in buying a stake in the UFC.

A long time mixed martial arts fan McMahon recently resigned from his position with WWE after a reported blowup with his father and is scheduled to leave the company on Jan. 1, 2010.

McMahon eportedly tried to get his father to buy the UFC years ago and Dana White has long envied the WWE's business plan, which includes numerous ancillary revenues that protects the company during down periods at the gate.

Camden is nation's most dangerous city

A national study has ranked the city of Camden as the nation's most dangerous city in 2008.

The annual rankings from CQ Press are based on FBI-compiled crime data and population figures. Some

Camden was also named the most dangerous city for 2003 and 2004 and the study found the city had more than 2,300 violent crimes for every 10,000 residents last year.

Philadelphia finished 21st, Trenton was 32nd and Reading was 37th.

The safest city with more than 75,000 residents was Colonie, N.Y.

Pujols wins NL MVP; Howard finishes third

Albert Pujols was the unanimous choice for NL MVP. Phillies 1B Ryan Howard finished third. Hanley Ramirez was the runner-up. Chase Utley finished eighth.

Lewis sentenced to death

A Philadelphia jury has sentenced convicted cop killer John Lewis to death for the 2007 murder of Officer Chuck Cassidy.

The jury originally found Lewis guilty of first degree murder last Thursday, a conviction that carried a sentence of either life in prison without parole or death.

In his closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron argued that death was warranted:

"He [John Lewis] puts the value of money ahead of the value of human life," Cameron said. "He's not sorry because he went trick or treating [the night of the crime]with his uncle in South Philly."

Phillies closing in on Castro

The Phillies could be close to finding a replacement for departing utilityman Eric Bruntlett. is reporting that the Phillies and Dodgers are competing for the services of utilityman Juan Castro with the Phils as the frontrunners.

Castro's agent, Oscar Suarez, told Andy Martino that the Phillies are deep in talks with the veteran but no deal is imminent.
Castro, 37, is a .230 hitter, with just a .270 on-base percentage, in 15 major league seasons. In 57 games with the Dodgers last year, he batted .277, while playing shortstop, second base, third base and left field and is regarded as a bit of an upgrade over Eric Bruntlett.

Fallen boxer donates organs

The family of junior featherweight boxer Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez announced the donation of multiple organs from the fallen fighter, including a kidney to his uncle.

Two days after Rodriguez was knocked out by Teon Kennedy in the 10th round at the Blue Horizon, he died from a brain injury suffered in the bout.

Rodriguez's organs were donated through the "Gift of Life" donor program, his brother Alex Rodriguez said in a statement.

"My brother was so strong and healthy," Rodriguez said. "His heart and lungs were in perfect condition. It would have been a terrible waste not to share his life with others. How could we not help another family? My daughter was born with just one kidney, and thank God she's beautiful and healthy. But, God forbid, she ever needs a transplant. ... I'm absolutely sure that Paco, in a heartbeat, would have offered her his kidney. My brother was and always will be 'The People's Champ.' Now he's a hero too."

Rodriguez (14-3-1, 8 KOs), who was 25, was rushed into brain surgery at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia after the fight on Friday but never regained consciousness.

Eagles give Justice extension

The Eagles have signed right tackle Winston Justice to a four-year contract extension. Justice was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

According to Adam Schefter it's a four-year, $18.15 deal, including a $6 million signing bonus.

A second round draft choice of Philadelphia in 2006, Justice has developed into one of the most productive performers on the Eagles offensive line this year. He has started all 10 games at right tackle in 2009 and has helped the Eagles post the sixth highest point total in the league (266).

The 25-year-old Justice has played in 21 regular season games during his NFL career (11 starts) and three playoff contests. He credits a strict offseason workout regimen and a new-found spirituality for the progress he has made throughout his NFL career.

"I think I’ve come a long way," Justice said. "One of things that my offensive line coach always told me was that hard work pays off and I took that mindset. Even when things were looking bad I always believed and had faith that hard work does pay off and I worked pretty hard and I think it’s paying off now. It’s a blessing.”

A native of Long Beach, CA, Justice was a three-year starter at USC and helped pave the way for three Heisman Trophy winners, QB Carson Palmer, QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush, and helped the Trojans capture the national championship in 2003.

"Obviously Winston was a guy that we really liked coming out of the draft; we moved up to get him.," GM Tom Heckert said. "I think through a lot of hard work from Winston here he has steadily improved and right now he’s turned into a very good player for us. He’s playing as well as anybody we have on the offensive line and that’s a credit to Winston. We’re happy to have him signed here for the next few years."

The Eagles also signed CB Geoffrey Pope off the Bengals practice squad and cut CB Jack Ikegwuonu.

Pope (6-0, 186) started the 2009 season on the Bengals active roster and appeared in four games, playing mostly on special teams. He was waived on October 8, but was signed to their practice squad the next day and has been there for the balance of the year.

Originally a rookie free agent signing of the Miami Dolphins in 2007, Pope spent the entire preseason there but was released as part of the team’s final roster cutdown. He signed to the New York Giants practice squad on September 3 and remained there for the entire regular season before being promoted to the active roster for their playoff run, appearing in both the NFC Divisional game and NFC Championship game.

Pope spent the 2008 preseason with the Giants and was briefly on their practice squad before signing to the Bengals practice squad on September 3. He was promoted to the active roster two weeks later and appeared in eight games, playing mostly on special teams.

After beginning his collegiate career at Eastern Michigan, Pope transferred to Howard University in 2005 and amassed 79 tackles and four interceptions in two seasons. The Detroit, MI, native attended Detroit Jesuit High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and track.