It would not surprise me if a poll of Patriots’ fans revealed 50 percent of them would be OK with Aaron Hernandez catching passes while awaiting trial for murder. After all, you are innocent until proven guilty.
The NFL has become a national obsession where it is acceptable to table our ethics if it allows our favorite team to be more competitive.
You may not have noticed, but the NFL suspended 20 players this week for violations to its drug policy, and unlike the suspensions of some of baseball’s biggest stars earlier this summer, it hardly made a ripple on the sports landscape.
Compared with assaults and gun charges, the drug suspensions seem relatively tame an unworthy of our worry.
I suspect cheating may be far more prevalent in the NFL than in any of the other pro leagues, despite NFL claims it has the most demanding drug testing in pro sports.
The NFL tests all its athletes before training camp for performance enhancing drugs and illegal street drugs. They also do random tests for performance enhancing drugs during the season, but only for street drugs if they have probable cause. About 10 players on each team are tested each week.
The NFL was supposed to start testing for human growth hormone (HGH) this year, but the players union and the league are still haggling over details.
Human growth hormone reduces fat, builds muscles and helps repair injuries. It allows athletes to exercise longer and recover faster.
Testing for HGH could change the face of the league. It might have the same affect that steroid testing had on baseball players’ home run production. With HGH testing in place, we might see significant reductions in the size of players and their ability to come back from injuries quickly.
Unfortunately, the current agreement is a bit of sham. The NFL agreed to blood tests for HGH. Drug experts say a blood test must be performed between 24 to 48 hours of use to detect the substance. That means a football player would have to be extremely unlucky to be caught.
Urine tests have been developed that might catch athletes using HGH as much as two weeks after use, but that’s not much better.
There are other holes in the current drug testing as well. Players who have been chosen to be tested the day after games are notified after the game. That gives them 12 or more hours to mask the sample and beat the test.
Considering the number of injuries in the NFL and the few long-term contracts that exist, it is reasonable to assume that using HGH might be the only way for a player to sustain a long career.
NFL players are suspended four games for a first offense and eight games for a second offense, but I don’t think most of us care.
The average life of a football player is pretty short and because of free agency, the rosters are always changing. Most of you would be hard-pressed to recognize any of the players suspended this past week.
Maybe, we just enjoy the games too much.
Maybe we are just tired of seeing our heroes unmasked, so what they do with their bodies is their own business.
But then your kids ask you about HGH and steroids, and you wonder how long it will be before kids are using them in our high schools.
Maybe they already are.
After all, everyone else is doing it.
Ken Tingley is editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.