5-11-02, 12:15 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
When the NFL followed through on last season's vow and became the first U.S. pro sports league to ban ephedrine Friday, the training room and weight room at Paul Brown Stadium felt a sense of validation.
Bengals strength coach Kim Wood and trainer Paul Sparling have been advising players throughout their three-decade stints in Cincinnati to lay off supplements even though it has made them unpopular in some quarters of the locker room.
"I'm proud of the NFL today," said Wood, the dean of NFL strength coaches. "They're saving lines. They're avoiding a great tragedy. Two thumbs up for the NFL. This is clearly in the best interest of the players."
Ephedrine is a substance often found in strength-building food supplements and can cause seizures, strokes or even death. Its herbal form, ephedra, is an ingredient in about 200 supplements used for weight loss, building muscle or boosting energy. Apparently both have been common in NFL locker rooms.
Wood and Sparling wouldn't say how many Bengals use Ephedrine or its products, but they insist they have been educating their players of the side affects and the fact testing begins July 1. Players testing positive will be subject to a four-game suspension.
"Not only are we thinking long-term about things like prostate cancer," Sparling said. "But we're thinking about the short-term, too. Like death. If you're looking to make yourself stronger and faster, it can't come out of a bottle."
At least not safely in the Bengals' opinion. When the league said back in September it was going on the ban list, Sparling says he had players approach him with the supplements they were taking and asking Sparling if the ingredients would pass the test.
"I can tell them what's on the label, but I can't tell them what's in the bottle," Sparling said. "It's up to them to be responsible for what they put in their bodies."
Wood sees randomly chosen players having to submit to a test right after a game because, "the stuff goes right through you. I don't believe it's going to be a problem with our team. It's illegal and that's all that matters."
Sparling is down on any kind of supplement, but he welcomes this move by the NFL because it is one that Sparling has constantly preached against.
"Supplements are not good for three reasons," Sparling said. "They're dangerous. They're unnecessary, and the only way to truly be fit is through diet."