Another Steroid Snafu Lands Coop a 4-Game Ban

Inside linebacker Stephen Cooper was suspended today for four games for violating the NFL policy on Steroids and Related Substances. It is not immediately known what substance was found in Cooper's test. This is not the first time Cooper has been in trouble with steroids, casting doubt over his future in San Diego.

The Chargers will have to make due without their leading tackler for the first four games of the 2008 season, meaning Stephen Cooper will be eligible to return for the Week 5 game against the Miami Dolphins. He is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by 13-year veteran Derek Smith, although second-year man Anthony Waters could also push for that assignment.

The transition will be made all the more difficult by a recent rule change allowing one defensive player to wear a headset on the field. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said earlier that offseason that Cooper would wear the headset for the Chargers, so that responsibility will now be shifted to another player.

"I regret that I mistakenly took a stimulant that I did not realize at the time was banned by the NFL," Cooper said in a statement. "I support the NFL's anti-doping policies, and understand that I must serve a suspension even though the stimulant that I took was not used before any game and was not used to enhance my performance."

This is not the first time Cooper has gotten in trouble with steroids. During his senior season at Maine in 2002, Cooper was caught in possession of approximately 1,000 steroids pills. That snafu led to Cooper going undrafted in 2003 before the Chargers picked him up as a free agent.

Cooper continues an unfortunate trend of Chargers defenders testing positive for steroids. In 2006, Shawne Merriman was suspended four games for testing positive for a banned substance. In 2005, the Bolts spent a first-round pick on Luis Castillo after Castillo admitted to steroid use prior to the draft.

Fullback Andrew Pinnock also has a steroid-related blemish on his record, as he was suspended for four games in 2004 after breaking the league's policy on Steroids and Related Substances.

Coach Norv Turner hopes he's seen the last of this disturbing trend.

"Obviously we're disappointed, just as I know Stephen is," Turner said in a statement. "Coop made a mistake and now must deal with the consequences. It's unfortunate, but we'll deal with it and move on."


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