Now It Can Be Told 93

January, 1992

In this episode:

Geraldo Rivera Roberta Baskin Paul Tagliabue Forest Tennant George Saunders
Host Chief Correspondent NFL Commissioner NFL Drug Advisor Attorney for player

Full Transcript

----In Studio----

Geraldo: Hello, New York! Today, we expose the outrageous abuse of drugs in pro football...and we name names!


Geraldo: On the eve of the superbowl, a super-bomb that blows the lid off football's drug scandal..

Voiceover: The problem has gotten more out of bounds.

Geraldo: Are pro players risking their lives trying to extend their career with dangerous drugs?

Voiceover: 90% of the entire team would probably be on some form of anabolic steroids.

Geraldo: How has the NFL dropped the ball when it came to testing their high-priced players for drugs?

Voiceover: By essentially selling bigger, stronger and faster players and turning a blind eye to what was going on.

Geraldo: A special investigation reveals the tricks and techniques players use to avoid being benched by league drug tests.

Voiceover: What's the sense in testing if you test positive and you draft them anyhow?

Geraldo: Now It Can Be Told..faulty drug tests, runaway drug use, Football's biggest Fumble...

----In Studio----

Geraldo: Welcome back. As America gets ready for the super-spectacle of super bowl 26, our exclusive investigation has uncovered the backroom, big bucks manipulation of players by the National Football League. When she worked at our Washington, D.C. affiliate, WJLA, our chief investigative correspondent Roberta Baskin roughed up the NFL with a series of explosive reports. I decided to send her back out on the field to take on the big boys.


Roberta Baskin: Geraldo, this is the Vince Lombardi trophy, the big prize for winning the Super Bowl. Try as it might, the NFL wouldn't win any prizes for its efforts to police drug use by its players. In fact, it was just before Super Bowl 24 in new Orleans that I first challenged the NFL's Drug Policy. The league decided the best defense, was a good offense.

Paul Tagliabue clip: I think this is a Molotov Cocktail of Journalism.

Roberta Baskin: You couldn't entirely blame the NFL's new Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue. Instead of being able to sit back and enjoy his first Super Bowl, he found himself at the center of a storm of accusations. We had the facts, figures and first-hand accounts.

Roberta Baskin: Our investigation found the league's drug policy was sloppily handled, broached confidentiality and was only selectively enforced. Player urine samples arrived at the lab -- leaking.

Bobby Tover clip: The specimens would either break open, leak through the wrapping and pretty much go through the entire package.

Roberta Baskin: Contrary to NFL policy names were listed on the bottle.

Garrett clip: Yes, yes. They were identified by name.

Roberta Baskin: And we obtained confidential drug testing records proving some star players were protected, while other were railroaded without recourse.

Calvin Thomas clip: For me it hasn't been a fair thing. Personally and as a result I've been literally forced to retire from the league.

Roberta Baskin: At the center of the controversy...the NFL's Drug Advisor Dr. Forest Tennant. We took our cameras into one of his drug clinics in Souther California and found his methods to be questionable and his practice unique.

Dr. Forest Tennant clip: Don't ever let anybody tell you that blacks, hispanics and asians don't want to work and raise a family. Right? You got it.

Roberta Baskin; Tennant and Tagliabue denied our charges but within a month Tennant was out! Tagliabue replaced him with a panel of skilled professionals and totally revamped the league's drug policy. Two years later, tennant agreed to talk with us again.

Dr. Forest Tennant clip: I knew sooner or later I'd become a real lightning rod for controversy. So you know...I don't suppose anybody likes to see their name out there in lights being beat up but it goes with the territory.

Roberta Baskin: And to this day, Dr. Tennant stands by the accuracys and results of his NFL Drug Tests.

Dr. Forest Tennant clip: Cocaine, Marijuana, Alcohol, 100 percent. Absolute confidence.

Roberta Baskin: But Tennant's own lab techs aren't so confident.

Tovar clip: Did you have confidence in the lab work - "%5 of it."

Garret Clip: Do you ever worry that some NFL players may have been accused of using drugs when they hadn't? - "Yes, they could have been."

Roberta Baskin: Nevertheless the NFL continues to call Tennant's drug tests "valid." Tagliabue made that clear before last year's Super Bowl.

Tagliabue clip: No, I don't see any reason to wipe the slate clean of any players that tested positive. I don't accept the characterization that prior testing was questionable.

Roberta Baskin: But high-powered Chicago attorney George Saunders who represents several top players threatened a class action lawsuit against the league over a player's supsension. The league backed down.

George Saunders clip: I think Dr. Tennant's drug tests have been challenged successfully and can be challenged successfully anytime they are treated as relevant in the future.

Roberta Baskin: Agent Steve Zucker Did take the league to court when it tried to suspend one of His clients, Richard Dent of the Chicago Bears. Again, the league backed down.

Agent Steve Zucker clip: I don't think the suspension would have been lifted if there wasn't some suspicion created about the accuracy of Dr. Tennant's testing.

Roberta Baskin: Interestingly, in the two years before our first report, 31 players had been suspended or banned for drug use. In the two years since, the league has reinstated more players than it's disciplined.

Roberta Baskin: And Now It Can Be Told has found the NFL still can't get it right. Juse this past summer the league tried to ban a big name player but fumbled the evidence. League policy is simple, split a player's urine sample. Test the A bottle and saves the B bottle in case the player wants to appeal. A ttorney George Saunders who represented the player even sent this letter to the league reminding it to save the B bottle. But at the hearing before Commissioner Tagliabue..


George Saunders: We learned the B bottle no longer existed. We were stunned. The commissioner was surprised to say the least.

Roberta Baskin: No Disciplinary action was taken.

George Saunders: No disciplinary action could be taken because they did not follow their own rules.

Roberta Baskin: They botched the test?

George Saunders: The lab botched the handling of the sample. That's exactly right.

----Geraldo in studio----

Geraldo: With so much money at stake I find that incredible. We'll have lots more when we return in a moment.


Voiceover: They are fooling themselves.

Geraldo: The NFL is thrown for a loss as we reveal some of the big names on the league's drug roster.

----In Studio----

Geraldo: Welcome back. As you've just seen, it's been two years since our Roberta Baskin first exposed major inadequacies in the NFL's Drug Testing program and the league is Still having problems. But the worst may be yet to come as the NFL tries to tackle an even bigger problem. Let's go back to our report by chief investigative correspondent, Roberta Baskin.


Paul Tagliabue: In simple terms, the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids is that they have no place in professional football and their use is flatly prohibited.

Roberta Baskin: That might be the NFL's "official" position but Dr. Forest Tennant says there were some factions iwthin the league working just as hard to protect steroid use.

Dr. Forest Tennant: When I was dealing with cocain, marijuana and alcohol, no problem. Everybody supported cleaning that problem up. When we decided to move into dealing with steroids, that's when you found out how many people around that league knew they worked, knew they wanted to see certain players keep taking them, and you would run into those pockets of resistance.

Roberta Baskin: Now It Can Be Told has obtained a confidential NFL document that shows some team owners and coaches as well as league officials looked the otherw ay when given proof of steroid use.

Roberta Baskin: It happened at one of these annual gatherings of NFL hopefuls, college players all with the same dream, turning professional. Here they're weighed, measured, and tested. For speed, strength, endurance, AND for drug use. This list from the 1987 tryouts shows 21 college players tested positive for steroid use, 18 were drafted anyway.

Steve Zucker: Yeah I see where almost all of them were drafted, in fact one extremely high. That's amazing to me. First that you would even have the list. Secondly, what's the sense in testing them if you test people positive and you draft them anyhow?

George Saunders: I wonder if the league informed the players who were in the league that they were bringing in 18 steroid users. I doubt it.

Roberta Baskin: Attorney George Saunders represented the only player suspended last year for steroid use.

George Saunders: If anyone thinks that the only person who used steroids in the NFL in 1991 is Terry Long, they are fooling themselves.

Roberta Baskin: In fact, Now It Can Be Told has learned that while the league suspended Terry Long, it did nothing about former Buffalo Bill running back Don Smith. Sources tell me Smith allegedly tested positive for alleged steroid use before last year's playoffs, an automatic 4 game suspension under league policy. Somehow the case disappeared amidst the excitement of the Super Bowl. No action was ever taken and Smith was allowed to play. In fact, he scored a touchdown.

George Saunders: If you believe what Dr. Tennant says, there are literally hundreds of people in the league taking steroids.

Roberta Baskin: Complicating the NFL's eforts tos top drug abuse is the league's testing policy which the courts could find legally "out of bounds." Take the case of Keith Millard, #75, star defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. We have learned exclusively Millard had been subjected to routine tests for illicit drugs since testing positive in 1988. But last year, Millard said "Enough!". We've obtained this letter to the Vikings and the league, notifying them that he declined to submit to further urine testing because it violates Minnesota State Law prohibiting random testing. Instead of automatically suspending Millard for refusing a drug test as called for under the league's policy, once again the NFL quietly backed down. So far Millard stands alone. Others may be reluctant to challenge the league.

Richard Berthelsen: The player would be bringing attention to himself in the context of alleged drug use. No one really wants to do that in any occupation. And when you consider an NFL player has on the average less than four years to play NFL football, he's very concerned about standing up against the league's illegal program..

----In Studio----

Geraldo: Joining me now, here's Roberta Baskin. I can't believe they let Smith play in last year's superbowl, after he tested positive. I wonder are there any players playing this Sunday that have tested positive ?

Roberta: Well, what we've shown is the continuing saga that there is selective enforcement of the League's policy. To suspend one player last year for steroids, and allow another one to go to the superbowl, there's a problem.

Geraldo: We'll talk more in a moment. We'll be right back.

Geraldo: We'll have more on Footballs biggest fumble in a moment, but first a look at what's coming up on the next edition of Now It Can Be Told.


Geraldo: It was one of the most sensational series of murders this century.

Voiceover: Investigators told me it was the bloodiest scene that...they had come upon.

Geraldo: And 20 years later, the California Zodiac murders go unsolved.

Voiceover: On the wall, in blood, somebody had written - 'Satan Saves'.

Geraldo: Now It Can Be Told is uncovers startling new evidence that may help solve this case. Our investigative report. Now It Can Be Told.

----------In studio with Roberta-------------

Geraldo: Are you absolutely certain, do you feel personally confident that we gave the NFL and Tagliabue adequate opportunity to respond to these charges?

Roberta: Uh, more than any other story I've ever done Geraldo. We tried to get Commissioner Tagliabue to respond two years ago and I've offered him an opportunity, standing for two years, to look at the documentation that we have and he still has not.

Geraldo: He refused.

Roberta: Mmhmm.

Geraldo: What's this selective enforcement ? Let's assume that you're absolutely right and there is selective enforcement of the drug testing policies what's it based on ? Who gets tested and ...or who gets exposed, thrown out and who doesn't?

Roberta: Well that depends on who you are and how you play. And the league's attitude to you. Two years ago we talked about three NFL quarterbacks who tested positive for high levels of cocaine, nothing happened. We have many other cases of players who have been railroaded out of the league based on drug test results that are far below levels that would considered positive anywhere else in the country or in other labs, and so who you...well, for instance, the case that we just talked about, the steroid case at last year's superbowl. Because it was just before last year's superbowl, nothing happened.

Geraldo: Based on this quirky state law, can the Bills players and the Skins players already in Minnesota refuse to be tested?

Roberta: According to an official in the state attorney general's office, it is illegal to do random drug testing in the state of Minnesota, unless you're in a safety sensitive job which these NFL players hardly's a real dilemna, if anybody wants to pursue it.

Geraldo: Are you frightened that the NFL's publicity machine's gonna try and chew you up now?

Roberta: I'm impressed, by them, but I'm not frightened by them.. I don't need season tickets or anything.

Geraldo: That's it, for now. I'm Geraldo Rivera.

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