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NEW ORLEANS--The orchestration of Super Bowl week collapsed yesterday with the NFL angrily challenging a Washington television station's report that the league had covered up positive drug tests for three star white quarterbacks.
Programmed news conferences became a stage for opposing quarterbacks Joe Montana and John Elway to say it wasn't them and NFL spokesman Joe Browne demanded that ABC affiliate WJLA "name names."
"Where is the proof?" Browne said after the station aired a 14-minute report on the league's drug policy Wednesday night. "If there are no names, there is no story."
Frank Herzog, the station's sports director, said the names of the players were not released because of confidentiality, a policy the league itself follows in drug cases. "The names are not the issue," he said. "The central issue is the faulty testing."
Asked if he knew the names, Herzog said, "I may know or I may not. That's not the point. The question is what happens when the [testing] bottle leaves the player."
Browne said a player who tests positive for drugs is offered treatment and counseling. "We can't force players to accept that treatment," he said. "Some players take us up. Some play golf."
That was an obvious reference to New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who said in his autobiography that golf helped him kick a drug habit. Taylor subsequently tested positive a second time and was suspended for 30 days. A third positive test, like Washington's Dexter Manley's last season, results in a lifetime suspension.
In the WJLA segment, consumer reporter Roberta Baskin charged that NFL testing does not follow the league's official drug policy and that there is "selective punishment," with some players disciplined while others are not.
Baskin said that in the last four years, three star quarterbacks who tested positive for cocaine were not sent for counseling. In each case, the station said, the quarterback was white, adding that either agents or the players themselves confirmed information that the league had ignored positive tests.
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