Skip to main content

'You Don't Need Them'

Consider Kim Wood a Paul Revere of sorts without the poetry. A guy who rode through darkness trying to spread an alarm before a dawn of oppression.

Except, they listened to Revere.

When Wood watched A-Rod go YouTube with his steroid confession earlier this week, he found himself thinking about two of the greatest Bengals ever.

"Before, I was always honored to have been a part of what Anthony Munoz and Tim Krumrie did," Wood mused the other day. "Now I'm even more honored."

Wood is the former Bengals strength coach who answered when Paul Brown called in the early 1970s and built the NFL's first full-time strength program. Since they quickly found themselves on the dirt ground floor of what was then pro football's steroids era, Wood became a leading figure in the anti-juice movement with his Ph.D grasp of the body and his tenacious University of Wisconsin fullback hold on fundamentals.

Munoz was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998. (Getty Images)
Now 63 and an author working on a book about the dangers of steroids, Wood believes what is lost in the blanket coverage of this week is the carnage steroids unleash not only later in life, but also in the bodies of children and adolescents.

"The drugs will hurt you and they are especially bad for young athletes," Wood said. "And you don't need them.

"Yeah, it tousles the hair of Bob Costas and all the baseball stat freaks. But look what it does to human beings."

Back in the day, Wood recoiled at the so-called enhancement drugs that had bolted into the locker rooms straight from the body-building gyms and the '60s culture wars, and he had a big-time supporter in Brown.

"Paul told me he wanted to win the right way," Wood said.

Wood sees the twin proof sheets of Munoz and Krumrie, linchpins of the Bengals offensive and defensive lines in an elite run of Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance in 1988, only a year after the NFL started league-wide testing for steroids.

"In that stretch many considered them the best offensive lineman and the best defensive lineman in the game," Wood said. "They were the best players in the strength positions. They were the hallmark of football skill and they did it the right way. Those are two guys that showed you can do it clean."

Wood had a lot of input into the league's drug testing policy and procedures and he said by the time he left the Bengals after the 2002 season the NFL's program for testing steroids was head and shoulders above any in pro spots.

Now with the influx of the Internet and HGH, Wood says the NFL has to remain as diligent as ever. Anabolic steroids are male hormones. HGH are more general hormones, but both are considered dangerous because they are believed to affect the endocrine system in an unknown manner with side effects just as unknown.

"It used to be the only way you could avoid testing positive was to use the exotic drugs," Wood said. "Now the exotic drugs seem to be the drugs of choice. And there are more places to get them than ever before with the Internet, and places like prescription mills."

Wood questions even why football players think steroids help them.

"It doesn't fit in football or combat sports," Wood said. "It destroys the body's ability to cool itself. In situations where there is heavy muscle exertion over time, it does not help. It fits more in baseball where there are short bursts, not heavy exertion."

The A-Rod headline has suddenly dwarfed the decade, but there have been signs why the NFL has had to amp up its technology. In 2005 several Carolina Panthers were linked to steroid use in court documents and just this week former NFL defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield admitted he lied when he denied he had taken the steroid THG.

Wood thinks the renegotiation of the collective bargaining agreement is coming at a good time on this particular issue since HGH goes undetected under current tests.

"There are ways to test for it, but it has to be cleared by the union," Wood said. "That's what has made it work. There has been cooperation in the past. There may have to be some changes. But there are going to be a lot of changes in the CBA.

"If you're going to stop drug use by using testing, you have to be able to test for it."

For Wood, the A-Rod interview proves once again how insecurity drives even the best of athletes.

And how the alarm has to keep being sounded for the kids following it all.

Bengals trainer Paul Sparling, who was with the club a decade before the league started testing, ticks off the damage:

Cancer, liver tumors, kidney failure, alteration of sex characteristics.

Sparling saw Lyle Alzado at the end, just before the Pro Bowl defensive end died of brain cancer at age 43 in 1992. And while it couldn't be proven that steroids gave him the disease, Alzado was convinced they killed him.

"If that doesn't impact you enough, I don't know if anything will," Sparling said. "The players today have all this information, but there are still a small percentage of guys who say, 'I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. I'm looking for what it does for me now.' "

Sparling chalks up that small percentage with the Bengals to Wood's influence, the current Bengals strength staff, and ownership's stance against steroids down through the years. As well as the NFL itself.

Ted Lambrinides runs a gym in Covington, Ky., where Bengals strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver don't hesitate to send players in the offseason, and goes back to the Wood era over 16 seasons.

"The message comes from above and that's pretty refreshing in sports today that owners would come out so definitively against it," Lambrinides said. "For me, maybe there have been only a handful of guys that have been under suspicion overall. I would say it's not the top players. It's the guys trying to make it. Some guys can't balance a checkbook and they think they can beat a drug test? Some guys would be that sophisticated, but not many."

The NFL is still reaping the benefits of being the first pro league to tackle steroids so aggressively.

"The league put together a first-class program designed not only for anabolic steroids, but performance enhancing drugs," Sparling said. "They continually give us information and education, and they've expanded the testing. There's a set limit for testing (each player) during the season and a set limit during the offseason. All computerized, all random, and the club has nothing to do with it."

He says the NFL has kept trying to improve the program since the days everyone knew they were going to get tested the first or second day of training camp.

"Kim was ahead of the curve not only with steroids, but with ephedrine and Creatine," Sparling said as he outlined the club's policy on supplements.

"We do not recommend, encourage, or support anyone taking any supplements simply because they're not regulated by the FDA," he said. "There is no way to know for sure what is in the product. As a result, we strongly discourage it."

Except for linebacker Darryl Blackstock, suspended last year for four games, Sparling can't remember the last Bengal suspended for violating the performance enhancement policy.

And, he says Blackstock wasn't looking to do anything illegal when he purchased an over-the-counter supplement that got him suspended for four games without pay.

"He got caught up in a system that's not regulated by the FDA," Sparling said. "That's where he got burned. Typically, they'll show me something they want to take and I'll forward that to a company called Drug Free Sport and they analyze the ingredients listed on the container and say either 'Yes, there is something banned,' or, 'No, there is not.' But the caveat is always since they're not regulated by the FDA, there is no assurance."

Blackstock said in a press release back in October, "I did not intentionally violate the policy, but I know it's my responsibility to use only approved nutritional supplements, and I didn't realize I was taking an over-the-counter product that included a banned substance."

While Sparling isn't so quick to compare football's drug culture in the '80s to MLB's in the '90s, he says the Bengals culture back then wasn't what has been portrayed in the movie "North Dallas Forty" and the ESPN series "Playmakers."

But he realizes the testing will have to keep pace with the production on the street.

"I've had some guys tell me in the past," Sparling said, "with the kind of money that's on the table, they'll do it if it gives them an edge."

Wood still worships the Bill Veeck White Sox in his Chicago youth of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox, but now he'd rather follow the baseball in Cuba and Latin America.

"It's definitely a dark day for baseball," he said. "Who do you believe?"

Wood believes in guys like former linebacker Reggie Williams. Williams was another leading purist who did it the right way and ended up playing 14 years and 206 games, 137 of them consecutive. From 1976-89. All but the final two years in the juice ball era.

The right way.

Brown once told Wood that, "Players must run on their own gas." He passed it on to Krumrie and for years when he was the Bengals defensive line coach Krumrie kept in his office a framed Sports Illustrated cover of Brown with the gas quote pasted on it.

Held up against the backdrop of the A-Rod moral and social milieu, the quote hasn't yellowed.

"For Paul," Wood said, "the way that you do it was just as important as doing it. You go for the double win."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.