Former NFL Commissioner Tagliabue to speak Thursday

Luke Graham

If you go

What: "Drugs and Sports: The Evolving Playbook," a talk by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, put on by Seminars at Steamboat

When: 5 p.m. Thursday

Where: Strings Music Pavilion at Pine Grove and Mount Werner roads

Cost: Free, donations welcome at door

Online: Visit http://www.yampavalley.i...

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue isn’t sure whether he’ll ever live to see a sports world free of performance-enhancing drugs, but he is sure the necessary steps are in place to move toward that goal.

Tagliabue – who was the lead NFL man from 1989 to 2006 – is in Steamboat Springs this week as part of the Seminars at Steamboat series.

Tagliabue will speak at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Strings Music Pavilion. His talk will look at the history of performance-enhancing drugs, as well as what the future might hold.

“In five to 10 years, the problems are still going to be focused on steroids and steroids put into compounds that aren’t labeled,” Tagliabue said Tuesday.

But Tagliabue thinks the NFL – along with other major sports entities – is on the right track when it comes to curbing the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

When Tagliabue took over for former commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1989, one of the first things he did was make testing random. He also made a first offense a four-game suspension.

“When I came in, the education had to start (reaching) players across the full spectrum of sports,” Tagliabue said. “They knew the health effects. It was not just a recreational drug for a guy living in the gym with weights. It could affect performance and extend a career. That was the turning point. … What we did helped the causes and hopefully trickles down.”

The trickle-down effect, Tagliabue said, will in turn hit the high school level. Because testing for performance-enhancing drugs is so expensive and nearly impossible for a school district to do, Tagliabue said stopping steroids at the high school level and below means educating students, coaches and administrators.

“You want to educate everybody, not just pro athletes,” he said. “Some studies show 30 percent of high school students who use steroids are not athletes. They use it because it makes them self-confident to the point of being aggressive. It gives them a sculpted body.”

Tagliabue was chosen for the Seminars at Steamboat series because of his vast knowledge on the subject.

Seminars board member Jane Stein said Tagliabue has talked to audiences about the subject at a national and international level.

With his experience – and Steamboat being a home to future Olympians, outdoor enthusiasts and high school athletes – Tagliabue became an easy choice.

“The Seminars board and program committee discussed different issues,” she said. “Drugs in sports have been on our list for a few years, and it rose to the top this year. We’re very democratic about how we pick our topics. He was a natural person to talk about this.”

Tagliabue is the third speaker in the summer’s series. The New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak spoke July 16, and U.S. Rep. Phil Sharp, president of Resources for the Future, spoke Aug. 6. Alice Rivlin, the first director of the Congressional Budget Office and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is scheduled to speak Aug. 20.

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