The baseball season opens next week under a shadow cast by allegations of steroid abuse.
The National Football League, by contrast, has been widely praised for having a tough steroid-testing program – which is why 60 Minutes Wednesday was surprised when an investigation we began last year led us to a list of prescriptions filled by current and former NFL players.
On the list were the names of NFL players who had prescriptions for steroids filled shortly before they played in the 2004 Super Bowl. Contributing Correspondent Anderson Cooper reports.
Super Bowl 2004 turned out to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. When the Carolina Panthers took on the New England Patriots, 140 million Americans tuned in to watch.
Two players among the Panthers' starting offensive linemen had prescriptions filled for a banned steroid within a week and a half of the game, according to the list obtained by 60 Minutes Wednesday. So did the Panthers' star punter, one of the best in the NFL.
The list says the Panthers players had prescriptions for steroids filled at a South Carolina pharmacy. It doesn't say whether they actually used the steroids. But all three players repeatedly refilled their prescriptions – in one case, 10 times.
The NFL says it tests players randomly, without warning, throughout the year. And yet there's no record of these players ever testing positive.
"Apparently, players are not intimidated by the program," says David Black, a forensic toxicologist who helped the NFL set up its drug testing program in the late 1980s. 60 Minutes Wednesday showed him the players' prescription information without telling him their names.
"I must confess, before looking at this information, I really did not imagine that someone could use -- drug as it's represented here, and not be identified in the program," says Black, who thought they would get caught.
How members of the Carolina Panthers came to our attention is a story in itself -- a story that begins near an airport on the outskirts of Columbia, S.C., at the offices of , a self-described "longevity physician." Shortt, as 60 Minutes Wednesday reported in January, was accused of killing one of his patients.
The county coroner said a controversial intravenous therapy the doctor administered was responsible for the death of patient Katherine Bibeau, but Shortt said she died of other causes.
Attorney Richard Gergel told 60 Minutes Wednesday last year that he was suing Shortt on behalf of the patient's family. Gergel also sued the neighboring Congaree pharmacy that filled some of the doctor's prescriptions.
In response to a routine request for documents, the pharmacy's lawyers provided Gergel with a list showing all the prescriptions the pharmacy filled for Shortt and his patients, from January through October 2004 – including the prescriptions for three Carolina Panthers.
Mignon Simpson is one of two former employees of Shortt who helped 60 Minutes Wednesday corroborate information on the list given by Gergel. While watching the Carolina Panthers play in the 2004 Super Bowl, she said she "recognized some of the players" that she had seen in Shortt's office.
Former patient Marguerite Meyer says she saw one of the Panthers in Shortt's office in the summer of 2004. "He was just very big. He was, I think, the biggest person I had seen," recalls Meyer, who says she asked Shortt's nurse, Kathleen Rush, who he was. "And Kathleen said, 'That was Todd Steussie.'"
Offensive lineman Todd Steussie – 6'6", and 320 pounds, is an NFL veteran and two-time Pro-Bowler. Out of 190 games, he's missed only one because of injury – a remarkable record.
His prescription record, however, tells a different story: 11 prescriptions of testosterone cream over an eight-month period.
Forensic toxicologist Black says testosterone is a steroid, and he says NFL players are not allowed to take it: "Testosterone is the original base chemical or the starting chemical for all the anabolic steroids."
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