“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud,” ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles declared. In his time, Greek sport was heralded for its nobility. It was the ultimate test of physical aptitude: nothing could obstruct the showdown of man vs. man. Thousands of years later, sport is littered by business, legal inquiries, and above all, performance-enhancing drugs. The National Football League, perched atop the pedestal of pro sports, is no exception. Fans cannot deny the fact that the steroid plague has spread into the confines of NFL football.
HGH, or Human Growth Hormone, is the most common drug associated with improved athletic performance. Specifically, HGH helps athletes recover from injuries faster by increasing the amount of hormone produced in the body. Former Tight end Christian Fauria experienced this firsthand: “I had tons of ankle problems, and I was looking for a way to get back faster,” Fauria told the Los Angeles Times.
Though he never took the drug, Fauria knew others who couldn’t resist the added edge: “I know guys who did it, and I remember saying, ‘This guy is going to the Pro Bowl! He’s shredded’” Fauria admitted. The 13-year veteran mentions a major issue; the fact that Fauria nearly used HGH for his ankles hints at where HGH lies in the modern NFL: injury recovery.
On December 24th, 2011, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson lay flat on the FedEx Field turf. An MRI revealed a torn ACL and MCL, and clouded Peterson’s hopes of a speedy recovery. Fast forward 12 months, and Peterson completes a 2,000 yard rushing season. This historic feat breeds an odd predicament: how can one possibly endure such a gruesome injury, race to a return before scheduled, and record one of the greatest rushing seasons in NFL history?
According to Thomas Hobbes, the average player recovery time is 55.8 weeks. Peterson returned to form a mere 37 weeks post-injury, a feat even Dr. James Andrews cannot fathom: “The few individuals that you know of who have come back quickly are what I call ‘superhuman’ athletes,” Andrews told Newsday, “Their healing potential for some reason is much better than the average patient.” This vague explanation does little to differ the HGH accusations. Dr. Andrews himself is unsure of how Peterson recovered to such a state.
Clearly, the picture illustrates a case for possible HGH use. Peterson himself was asked about said accusations, and gave an interesting response: “They think I’m on HGH? I’m doing that good? Well, hoo! Thank you, Jesus!’ It’s a compliment. I don’t get mad about it at all,” Peterson told Tom Pelissero of Newsday. One would think an athlete falsely accused of cheating would respond with vigilance and defiance. Peterson, however, seemed to accept these allegations, as if cover something up. Even if Peterson had recovered fully, his statistical leap from 2011 to 2012 is rather miraculous. The most alarming stat: Peterson averaged 50 yards per game more than the previous year, a feat inexplicable by Dr. Andrews’ term “superhuman.”
Much like Peterson, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III tore his ACL in a late-January playoff game. Eight months later, Griffin suited up as the starting quarterback against Philadelphia in the team’s season opener. Similar to Peterson, Griffin returned before schedule in 32 weeks time. Griffin has struggled thus far, having recorded four interceptions in three games.This has been due to the fact that Griffin hasn’t been comfortable planting his foot when throwing. Could this be due to a tainted rehab assignment?
Normally, athletes work excruciatingly hard to heal a severe injury. Sports medicine specialist David Geier explained the ACL rehab process: “In therapy, you work like crazy on quad strength and hamstring strength on all these different machines to get that back, and you try to replicate that with all these functional drills to replicate football,” Geier said. This rigorous training should instill confidence in the previously-injured knee, if the athlete truly believes he has labored to repair the issue. Griffin’s quick return and lack of confidence in the “rehabilitated” foot depict only one conclusion: his offseason work may not have been as clean as it appeared.
Griffin and Peterson’s cases reveal ominous signs for the lawmakers of the NFL. Much like baseball, football is no longer safeguarded from the HGH virus. Thousands of years after the Roman chariot races, a footrace on the football field could be won or lost by a case of “who took what?”