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Let’s face it: Steroids is a stain on modern professional sports blacker than Kenny Rogers’ palm, blacker than Oakland’s Black Hole, blacker than… OK, you get the point. As long as performance-enhancing drugs hover over pro sports, every physically gifted athlete and every hallowed record that falls will be questioned. Why did they gain 30 pounds in the offseason? Why did they jump two hat sizes in a month? Did they juice up?

The NFL caught Chargers standout linebacker Shawne Merriman red-handed with traces of the anabolic steroid nandrolone in his test samples. The second-year man out of Maryland doesn’t need steroids to be a monster on the field, but test results usually don’t lie. To his credit, Merriman apologized to his teammates for the distraction but maintains he didn’t knowingly do anything wrong.

Here are his comments from after a Chargers practice a few days ago: “Regardless of what happens, I’ve said from day one that I don’t think I did anything wrong, but at the same time, if they found that I did something wrong, I’ll take full responsibility for it. I’m not running from anything. Just as my lawyer said, it wasn’t nothing intentional. Whatever happens, I just hope it happens for the best.”

I applaud Merriman’s handling of the situation, speaking directly to the press and answering all questions thrown his way. He appears to be open and honest in his answers. He hasn’t outright denied the accusations, but he hasn’t quite taken “full responsibility” for his actions yet either.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for what we put in our bodies. Pro athletes have to more than diligent when it comes to nutritional supplements. I hope Merrimen can go the rest of the way to manning up for his mistake, apologizing to the fans and the sport by serving his suspension and dropping his appeal. But that’s not going to happen. Too bad, ’cause Merriman has a real opportunity here to make amends.

– CHRIS NIXON

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