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Raiders, NFL face THG hit

Report: Four tested positive for steroid

FOXBOROUGH -- Foremost on Gene Upshaw's mind at Friday's "Sports Law Forum" at Suffolk University was the subject of steroids, specifically the new designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).

Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he is vigilant in his desire to rid the football world of steroid use because "the players want a level playing field" and he believes the league has made significant gains. But he was adamant that players who have tested positive for THG should get a pass.

"I don't think it serves any purpose to go back to the players who tested positive and penalize players for testing positive," he said. "I am definitely in favor of moving forward and if a player tests positive in future tests, he should be subject to the punishments that the NFL and NFLPA have instituted as a result of the collective bargaining agreement."

Shortly after the conclusion of the forum, which also featured Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others, Upshaw traveled back to the NFLPA offices in Washington, where he was likely dealing with the THG issue firsthand. During the "NFL Today" pregame show yesterday, CBS's reported that four Oakland Raiders -- defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, center Barret Robbins, linebacker Bill Romanowski, and defensive tackle Chris Cooper -- have tested positive and face four-game suspensions.

The union likely would appeal the suspensions on the grounds that the league retested the players' urine samples after the discovery of the new steroid.

SportsLine had reported three weeks ago that four players, including Patriots special teams captain Larry Izzo, had been subpoenaed to testify in the Internal Revenue Service's probe of Victor Conte and his Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), manufacturer of THG.

If the four Raiders are suspended, it would mark the first time in NFL history that four players from the same team are suspended at the same time.

"There's no question it's the hottest issue out there," said Upshaw.

The THG issue has caused a ripple effect around the sporting world. Late last week, Major League Baseball announced that more than 5 percent of its players had tested positive for steroids, triggering random testing starting next season, and the International Olympic Committee will begin testing for THG at the Games in Athens next August.

Former NFL star John Riggins, working last night's Patriots-Cowboys game at Gillette Stadium as a sideline reporter for CBS Radio, said he never knew guys were on "the juice" during his playing days in the 1970s and '80s.

"After I was done playing, people would tell me, `That guy was on steroids,' and then I'd think about it and say, `Yeah, OK, that makes sense to me now,' " said Riggins. "Hopefully the league gets it straightened out."

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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