Romo: I crossed a line

Using drugs was about winning, ex-Bronco says

By Robert Denerstein, Rocky Mountain News
May 17, 2005

Former Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski detailed Monday how he stayed one step ahead of the NFL's drug policy in an effort to perform at peak levels.

"It wasn't about illegal. I was doing things that they couldn't test for," said Romanow-ski, who was known during his career for his use of performance-enhancing supplements and has been implicated in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroids scandal. "As soon as they found out that something could be tested for, I stopped taking it. I didn't want that embarrassment, but I pushed that envelope ethically and morally because if I could take something that would help me perform better and it wasn't on the list, I was going to take it.

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"I had two criteria: Would it hurt me? And would I test positive?

"In the end, there's been some embarrassment at what I had to deal with."

Romanowski, who played for the Broncos from 1996 through 2001, was in Denver on Monday to promote his portrayal of a prison guard in The Longest Yard, an Adam Sandler comedy that opens May 27. Romanowski also is working on a book about his life and assisting in the development of dietary supplements he says can help with concussions, an injury that might have hastened his retirement.

Romanowski said his use of supplements stemmed from being "insecure" and that he is aware of the compromises he made.

"At the core, I compromised my integrity to become the best I could be, to perform at the highest level possible," Romanowski said. "Deep down inside, I'm a kind, loving person that really enjoys people. I have a big heart and I always want to help people."

Romanowski sounded more like a philosopher than the gladiator for which he made his name.

"That's the learning experience. If you continue to do the things that compromise your integrity than what are you?" said Romanowski, who in 2003 tested positive on an NFL drug test for THG, a previously undetectable steroid allegedly provided to athletes by BALCO. "Morally, you get into a bind. What do you want? Is it quality of life? Do you want to feel good? It was a struggle that I had."

For Romanowski, football and ambition made for an intense combination.

"I think I've been so relentless in achieving goals and living my dreams that I don't know if I really ever took a deep breath and said, 'Enjoy the journey,' " he said. "There are things I did off the field to be able to perform at the highest level possible that really go back to that insecurity of 'can I do this on my own?' "

Romanowski said the NFL gives its players a lot to worry about when it comes to job security.

"They say you're only as good as your last game, but sometimes it's your last practice . . . ," he said. "I played 243 straight games. That doesn't count playoffs and Super Bowls. The game is not good for the human body. That's a reality. My drive was not only to perform but to have quality of life afterward."

Could Romanowski have excelled relying only on talent and training?

"We'll never know if I could have done it completely on my own," he said.

Romanowski said it hurts to know some people will view his 16-year career through a lens blurred by controversy and legal tangles, but he is certain of one thing.

"I believe in my heart that there's nobody on planet Earth who wanted it as bad as I did," he said.

"Bad" is a word that has haunted Romanowski's career - or, depending on football values, possibly enhanced it.

"The longer I played the game and the harder I pushed and the more I went over the line, I went further and further away from who I am," he said. "In that way, I feel like it lowered my level of consciousness.

"Because the absolute truth is love and expressing that and honoring that. I didn't realize that because I was so driven by what was going on. I was fueled by the next workout, the next game, the next dragon to slay, making sure that I was always going to get one up on my competition. I had a blast. But I was always pushing it."

Whatever the field happens to be, Romanowski said, it is possible to push hard without compromise.

"There are millions of examples of people who have done that," he said. "But for me, there's a line, and at times I went over that line."