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The NFL is getting tougher on the use of steroids, which for more than a decade turned some marginal players into near-300-pounders. But Commissioner Pete Rozelle says the league won't crack down on steroid users the way it has on other drug abusers.

This season, for the first time, the league is making players who use steroids subject to discipline by Rozelle. The warning was contained in Rozelle's annual drug-use memo sent to all NFL training camps.But the discipline was not specified in the document and league officials sought to play down the change.

"Last year, we tested the players for anabolic steroids for the first time; this year we are again testing," NFL spokesman Joe Browne said. "The difference this year is that we have told the players that they could face possible disciplinary action. However, I am not suggesting suspensions for testing positive for anabolic steroids at this time."

Doctors and other critics of steroids have long warned of the adverse side effects, including the possibility of cancer, sterility and various other maladies or diseases.

Rozelle's first mention of steroids was in his 1987 message on prohibited drugs, which also mentioned cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines.

"The league no longer merely condemns the misuses of these substances," he said in last year's memo. "They are prohibited in any quantity for any purpose." That phrase also was contained in this year's message.

But Rozelle went farther this year, noting that detection of steroid use during a camp-opening drug test will subject the player to random testing for "reasonable cause," similar to that imposed on those who test positive for other substances.

If such a finding is made at training camp, Rozelle said, the player will be re-tested within four weeks. If that test turns up positive, he will then undergo a complete medical evaluation by the team physician and the NFL's drug advisor.