HGH and Steroids: Rodney Harrison and the Selective Media Coverage
The media is reporting that New England Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison has admitted to using Human Growth Hormone. What follows are some links are extended comment on this recent event. Perhaps what is most interesting about the disclosure of Harrison’s use of HGH is the selective reporting of current Cowboys coach Wade Wilson’s receipt of the same drug for three years as coach of the Chicago Bears. If you’re unfamiliar with professional football, the Bears have been in the news a great deal lately due to off field incidents involving Terry “Tank” Johnson and linebacker Lance Briggs. The Bears, owned by the Halas-McCloskey clans, competed in last year’s Super Bowl versus the Indianapolis Colts. The game marked the first instance of two Black coaches leading their teams to the NFL’s biggest game. The Bears were defeated by the Colts.
Back to Rodney Harrison, Wade Wilson and HGH:
The Associated Press wrote a detailed piece on Harrison which was picked up in Canada by the Canadian Press. Excerpts are included here:
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Rodney Harrison, the frequently fined strong safety who solidified the New England Patriots’ defence through back-to-back Super Bowl victories, will miss the first four games of the NFL season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
“Tomorrow, the commissioner will announce I have been suspended,” a sombre Harrison said in a hastily announced conference call with reporters on Friday night after ESPN.com reported that he had admitted obtaining human growth hormone.
Harrison did not take questions or confirm the banned substance involved.
“I want to make it clear that not once did I ever use steroids,” he said. “I did admit to the commissioner that I did, in fact, use a banned substance.”
And then there’s this about Wade Wilson:
Wade Wilson, currently the Cowboys’ quarterback coach, reportedly also admitted to NFL officials that he received illegal drugs.
According to the New York Daily News, Wilson admitted receiving HGH while working for the Chicago Bears from 2004-06. Citing sources, the News said Harrison and Wilson were subjects of an investigation by the Albany (N.Y.) County District Attorney’s office into an Internet drug scam.
Curiously, though, that’s not ALL that the New York Daily News had to say about Wade Wilson. The New York Daily News asserts that a COACH of the defending NFC Champion Chicago Bears received anabolic steroids and HGH for three years. Here is the report:
New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Wade Wilson have both admitted to league officials that they received illegal performance-enhancing drugs as part of an Internet drug scam, the Daily News has learned.
Harrison will be suspended for four games, sources said, and Wilson, whose career as a quarterback ended in 1998, faces a yet-to-be-announced punishment.
Harrison, speaking on a conference call last night after his suspension was reported by ESPN, apologized to fans, especially those in “high school and college.”
“I want to make it clear that not once did I ever use steroids,” Harrison said. “I did admit to the commissioner that I did use a banned substance. My purpose was never to gain a competitive edge. Rather, my use was solely for the purpose of accelerating the healing process from injuries I sustained.”
Wilson admitted receiving human growth hormone and anabolic steroids while a coach with the Chicago Bears, where he worked from 2004-2006. League officials were interested to know whether he used the drugs himself or whether he supplied them to players. Harrison admitted to receiving human growth hormone. Although the league does not test for HGH, a player can be suspended under the NFL doping policy if he admits or it can be proven that he took or possessed anything on the banned substances list.
This story has been picked up in a number of national news outlets. The Boston Globe does not make mention of Wade Wilson. The New York Times does not make mention of Wade Wilson. However, the New York Times references San Diego Charger Shawne Merriman (as a high profile player suspended under the NFL Drug Policy) and even offers this:
ESPN.com said that Harrison’s name surfaced as part of an investigation by the Albany County district attorney’s office into Internet sales of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs that has centered on a pharmacy in Orlando, Fla.
Investigators have reviewed thousands of pages of prescriptions from the pharmacy. Baseball and football officials met with the Albany district attorney, seeking access to the lists after it was reported that among the customers of the pharmacy were current and former players in Major League Baseball and the N.F.L., college players, coaches and doctors.
The Washington Post does not mention Wade Wilson by name. Instead WaPo writer Mark Maske submitted this to his editors:
“A source said the league is also investigating an NFL assistant coach as part of a probe into the distribution and use of HGH by players.”
Dan Bollerman of Bloomberg News does not make mention of Wade Wilson or the larger investigation involving current and former MLB and NFL players, college players and coaches.
Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle does not make mention of DALLAS COWBOYS assistant coach Wade Wilson or the larger investigation involving current and former MLB and NFL players, college players and coaches.
Sean Leahy of USA Today does not make mention of DALLAS COWBOYS assistant coach Wade Wilson or the larger investigation involving current and former MLB and NFL players, college players and coaches.
And what of ESPN? The network is running loops of Rodney Harrison with nary a mention of Wade Wilson or the larger investigation involving current and former MLB and NFL players, college players and coaches. The print article on ESPN.com does note the New York Daily News identification of Wade Wilson. There is no mention of his receipt of anabolic steroids.
ESPN grafted their article from the original AP piece, but also provided this context:
League sources confirmed to ESPN and ESPN.com that at least one NFL assistant coach has also been questioned in recent months by investigators as part of the probe and faces disciplinary action because he also has been linked to HGH in the same investigation.
The admission by Harrison has not been made public, but his name was among those known to federal and New York officials conducting a large-scale investigation into an Internet pharmaceutical distribution ring for steroids and other performance enhancers, such as HGH.
The investigation was instigated by the Albany County district attorney, and involved New York Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agents and an Orlando, Fla,-based federal task force. In February, state and federal agents and representatives from other law enforcement entities raided two Signature Pharmacy outlets in Orlando, and several Florida clinics alleged to have supplied prescriptions for performance enhancers to professional athletes.
Also, the owners of Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala., which is alleged to have provided performance enhancing drugs to athletes were indicted in Albany County.
As part of the Florida and Alabama raids, it is believed that investigators discovered the names of several athletes, but it is not known if Harrison was among them.
Earlier this year, Albany County district attorney David Soares said that he would provide the NFL, Major League Baseball and any other leagues the names of players believed to have made purchases through the alleged distribution ring.
NFL and Major League Baseball officials subsequently traveled to Albany to meet with Soares and other investigators.
A course in Media Education might compel one to ask why certain papers have restricted their focus to Rodney Harrison to the exclusion of Wade Wilson and the larger investigation. One might ask if Wilson (whose primary charge in Chicago was Rex Grossman) played some part in keeping the oft-injured QB on the field through HGH. One might ask if the league is allowing the revered McCloskey clan to do damage control if questions are raised about HGH in Chicago. Is an undersized and speedy linebacker the beneficiary of HGH? Does Brian Urlacher (owner of the number 1 merchandising jersey in the NFL) a beneficiary? Since Wilson was retired, to whom did he give HGH and anabolic steroids?
And there is also the timing of this announcement…Friday evening before a long Labor Day weekend comes an announcement that a 34-year old strong safety on the down side of his career has admitted using HGH to stave off the ravages of Hines Ward (Ward (pictured below abusing a Cincinnati Bengal) is the league’s best blocking wide receiver was manhandling Harrison and unceremoniously ushered him downfield when he was injured in 2005.)
The NFL season begins next week. If Harrison is the only focal point of this query, it will be lost. However, with MLB heading toward October, with the college football season beginning, is not now the time for the media to actually report what our law enforcement dollars have found? Is now the time to support league damage control or is now the time to give the full context?
Regardless of the answers to that question and many others, it should be clear that news reports hardly pass muster as exercises in objectivity.
Who is Rodney Harrison? I can’t say. I am sure, however, that there is more to him than a uniform and ferocious tackles just as there is more to this investigation than aging strong safeties breaking rules.
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- September 1, 2007 / 8:00 am