Sanders' steroid controversy is nothing

WESTMINSTER -- In the latest installment to professional sports' steroid controversy, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Deion Sanders was asked if he believed it was possible that Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro might have accidentally taken steroids.

Sanders replied that shortly before he ended his three-year retirement last August he received prescribed medication to treat an ankle he hurt playing basketball. When Sanders took his Ravens' physical, he said steroids were detected in his system.

"The next thing I know they're testing me weekly. I'm like, what's going on? I had never had a prior," Sanders said. "They told me I flunked the steroid test. I was on the random steroid test every week because I took something to help expedite my ankle.

"You could tell from my body structure that I could be on steroids because I'm big like that, but that's how innocent it could be."

Apparently, it's even more benign than Sanders' portrayal.

Hours after Sanders made his comments, the Ravens clarified his status within the NFL substance-abuse policy.

The Ravens said that Sanders never failed a drug test, but was given weekly drug screenings because he skipped a random drug test shortly before he officially retired from the Washington Redskins in 2000.

A failed steroid test would have triggered a four-game suspension under league guidelines.

"Deion never failed a drug test," Ravens senior vice president of public relations Kevin Byrne said. "When Deion had time left on his contract with the Redskins, he wasn't going to play again and he didn't go to the test. Under the letter of the law, that gives them probable cause.

"That's why he was tested. He might think it was because of his ankle, but it's not. The league is very careful with this because they don't want people accusing them of giving preferential treatment to Prime Time. He's never tested positive for steroids."

Ravens coach Brian Billick spoke later to Sanders, who apologized for causing confusion and promised he would clear up the misunderstanding today.

After butchering the pronunciation of Palmeiro, Sanders weighed in on the embattled Orioles slugger.

"You really don't want to jump the gun and speculate," Sanders said. "I'm sure there's a wonderful story behind it all. Let's just hope it's not what it seems."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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