Fines are the next BALCO twist

Chris Cooper and Barret Robbins of the Oakland Raiders and free agent Dana Stubblefield have been fined three game checks by the NFL for testing positive for the steroid THG.

They also were placed on "reasonable-cause testing" for the rest of their careers, and will be suspended for eight games if they test positive for any steroid in the future.

The action was the result of an agreement announced Wednesday by the NFL and the players' union that has been pending since last October. Cooper and Stubblefield are defensive lineman, and Robbins is a center.

A fourth player, linebacker Bill Romanowski, also tested positive, although the league did not identify him by name. Romanowski announced his retirement after last season, and his case is still pending.

Robbins' fine totals $234,375, based on his 2004 salary of $1.25 million. Cooper's fine is $187,500, based on a salary of $1 million. Stubblefield's fine will be determined by his salary when or if he signs.

All four players were with the Raiders at the time they were tested and when THG was identified.

Stubblefield and Cooper, along with running back Tyrone Wheatley and fullback Chris Hetherington all appeared before a grand jury investigating a nutritional supplements lab -- the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative -- which has been at the center of a steroids controversy in several sports.

The league said they were the only positive samples in 1,700 retests of every sample taken before last Oct. 6. The league also said there were no positive samples in more than 4,000 tests since that date.

Normal league policy mandates a four-game suspension for players who test positive for steroids the first time.

That differs from the league policy for most other drugs, in which a player isn't suspended until a second violation. The reasoning behind that is that steroids provide the player using them with a competitive advantage.

In this case, however, the fines were agreed upon as a compromise after negotiations between the league and the NFL Players' Association. The union had challenged the NFL's authority to retest specimens deemed to be negative after an initial screening.

Henderson said in the future, users of any newly discovered steroid "will be caught and disciplined in the same manner as those who test positive for known substances." Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, said the organization appealed what originally were four-game suspensions because of the precedent invol

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