It was brutal to watch, men of such enormous girth chasing down Ryan Tannehill Sunday afternoon, pummeling him in ways that we old men know will come back to plague the Dolphins quarterback in his arthritic bones.
A game later, it was the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, similarly knocked into ineffectiveness by freakish giants, so big, so strong, so fast — men whose counterparts 25 years ago weighed 50 and 60 pounds less.
It’s as if NFL players have out-strapped evolution. Of course, there are other theories.
Same day, Al Jazeera’s investigative team aired an hour-long documentary with undercover footage of doctors, pharmacists and someone described as a “naturopathic practioneer” as they peddled human growth hormone and designer steroids to a British athlete secretly working for the TV network.
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The videos, taken in the Bahamas, Texas and Canada, capture drug peddlers as they assured their would-be patient that these new performance- enhancing drugs would be virtually undetectable by doping tests now employed by sports organizations.
The illicit medicine men named a number of NFL and Major League Baseball players who’ve indulged in their services. One mentioned the widely admired Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. That and Manning’s fervent denials captured most of the headlines. (Manning angrily refuted the allegations, insisting that his connections to an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis had to do with his use of an hyperbaric chamber, not banned drugs.)
The Al Jazeera allegations had particular resonance in South Florida where a similar pseudo doc named Anthony Bosch was busted last year for doling out his own performance-enhancing concoctions. Biogenesis, his so-called anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, specialized in providing such drugs to MLB players (and high school athletes). Bosch went to prison and some 14 pro baseball players, including stars like Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and hometown hero Alex Rodriguez, served suspensions.
Major League Baseball had tested players, of course. But testing didn’t nab these miscreants. Rather, their names popped up in Biogenesis records, stolen by a disgruntled employee and delivered to Miami New Times. MLB investigators managed to purchase purloined copies of the doping records.
The NFL didn’t even begin testing for HGH until last year. If the drug works as the pharmaceutical black market claims, regular injections can build muscle, reduce fat, speed up healing — tempting attributes for an NFL player. Except the testing regime seems designed to make sure few players get caught. USA Today reported in February that in the 2014 season, not one positive was registered out of 790 tests.
It could be that our NFL heroes just weren’t tempted by a tough-to-detect drug that promises to remake them into super-sized athletes and speed recovery from the awful physical beatings administered each Sunday in glorious high-def TV.
Except in South Florida, after we were burned by Tony Bosch and Biogenesis and another set of fallen sports heroes, we have special reason to wonder how these guys got so strong, so fast, so big.