ENGLEWOOD - Steroids and supplements have become practically interchangeable terms by NFL fans and the NFL, which has sections regarding supplements in its steroid policy.
In fact, the NFL probably wouldn't mind if supplements went away for good.
"For your own health and success in the league, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take," the NFL and NFL Players Association said in a co-authored statement on the NFLPA's Web site.
But supplements are part of the scene after any Broncos workout. Defensive end Bryant McNeal drinks a protein shake after lifting weights. Cornerback Lenny Walls has a sports drink with electrolytes added to it. Linebacker Terry Pierce talks about the seven multi- vitamins he takes daily.
Unlike steroids, some supplements are legal, help athletes without dire side effects and are readily available to the public in stores. Supplements themselves, which enhance a player's nutrition before or after workouts when used properly, aren't necessarily the problem. For many, it is a way to get a boost of protein or vitamins to accentuate the work they've done in the weight room.
The trepidation is over taking a supplement with a banned substance in it, and there are many that have been outlawed. The NFLPA lists 34 anabolic steroids, 19 masking agents and six stimulants on its main list of banned substances. If a player tests positive for one, he is immediately suspended for four games.
Players such as Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim Miller and former Pittsburgh Steelers and Broncos safety Lee Flowers were suspended for violating the policy. All said afterward that they took a nutritional supplement that they did not know had a banned substance in it.
Flowers said last year he bought some vitamins at a well-known store that sells nutritional supplements. He said he tested positive for ephedra, although it was not listed on the bottle's ingredients. The Broncos released Flowers after his suspension was over, and he never played for Denver.
The ephedra Flowers took could have shown up in the ingredients under another name, such as Ma Huan, or the label may not have been accurate. In the NFLPA's warning about supplements, one of its main concerns is that the government doesn't regulate or monitor supplements.
"I would not tell a player to go to a nutritional store and get something because you don't know what's in it," Broncos strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten said. "You don't know. There might be something disguised in there that has ephedra in it, and then you test positive."
The NFL has taken steps to help players feel safe about taking supplements. The league instituted a "Supplement Certification Program" in January, in which an independent organization tests supplements from participating companies before they hit the market and randomly after they are in stores to verify the accuracy of the ingredients and make sure no banned substances are included.
A few months after the program was instituted, EAS was the only company that passed all the tests. The Coloradobased company provided nutritional supplements to NFL teams, including protein - rich shakes, powders and snack bars.
If the supplements are administered and monitored properly, it could help players with their offseason workout regimen without worrying about getting a four-game suspension from the league for testing positive for a banned substance.
"Our view, and I think it's shared by the league and the (players association), is that improved nutrition is the next major area of development for athletes," said Chip Bellamy, general counsel for EAS. "They all know about strength training, and many of them don't know or pay enough attention to nutrition."
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The following substances areprohibited by the NFL:
Androstenedione (Androstan, Androtex)
Boldenone (Equipoise, Parenabol)
Clostebol (Turinabol, Steranabol)
Danazol (Cyclomen, Danatrol)
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT, Stanolone)
Ethylestrenol (Maxibolin, Orabolin)
Formebulone (Esiclene, Hubernol)
Methandienone (Danabol, Dianabol)
19-Norandrostenedione (19 Nora Force)
Progesterone-Stanozolol (Stromba, Winstrol)
Trenbolone (Finaject) Human or animal growth hormone
Beta-2-agonists (Clenbuterol, etc.)
Human chorionic gonadatropin Masking agents (24 listed) Stimulants
Ephedrine (Ma Huan, Chi Powder)
Pseudophedrine (found in Sudafed and Actifed, which are allowed when prescribed by team doctors)
Fenfluramine (Phen-Fen, Redux)
Norfenfluramine-Phentermine (Fastin, Adipex, Ionamin)
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