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NFL increasing max number of steroid tests

NEW YORK (April 26, 2005) -- The NFL is tripling the number of offseason steroid tests each player can face, part of several changes to the league's drug policy that officials will tell members of Congress about on April 27.

Players now will be subject to a maximum of six random drug tests during each offseason, up from two, NFL spokesman Joe Browne said.

The league and union also had recently agreed to add new substances to the list of banned performance enhancers, to put in writing previously agreed-to policies to test for designer steroids, and to lower the testosterone ratio threshold.

"For two decades, the NFL has had very strong programs in place to rid its locker rooms of performance-enhancing drugs," Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in remarks prepared for testimony before the House Government Reform Committee and released by the league. "We have not had all the answers but we have worked with leading institutions and top scientists to seek to stay ahead of an ever-changing curve."

The change in the testosterone ratio threshold mirrors the practices of the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency.

The hearing is a follow-up to last month's session in which lawmakers questioned baseball players and officials about that sport's steroids policy.

Tagliabue and players' association executive director Gene Upshaw are among 10 witnesses scheduled to appear, including one former player, Steve Courson, an offensive lineman who has spoken out against steroid use.

Upshaw said the changes to the NFL's drug policy were not brought about by the congressional attention.

"This is something we do every year. Annually, we review our policy, and if there are changes to keep up with science, we do it in the course of our annual review," Upshaw said. "This is no reaction whatsover to appearing before this committee. To tell the truth, we've been doing this for years."

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