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JASON WILDE

Lee Newspapers

GREEN BAY — Jude Waddy peeked out the window of the Green Bay Packers training room and immediately knew what all the camera crews and reporters were waiting for.

All the rookie linebacker had to do was hide for another 5 minutes or so. After that, the locker room would be closed to the media and he wouldn't have to talk about the NFL four-game suspension he received Wednesday for testing potive for steroids.

But Waddy wasn't going to do that. Instead, he walked to his locker, pulled up a seat and answered every question head on. And if he is in fact guilty of using steriods, as the NFL alleges, he sure didn't sound or act like it Wednesday.

“The test is inaccurate," said Waddy, who is appealing the ruling but will start serving his suspension with Sunday's game at Chicago. “I mean, it's obvious I'm not on steroids."

He has a point. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Waddy is well-built but certainly isn't the hulking steroid-stereotype. Even coach Mike Holmgren is inclined to believe him.

“If they're steroids, I'm wondering what they're doing for him. I don't mean to make light of it, but he's not a big, bulky guy," Holmgren said. “So in my conversation with him about this, he doesn't know quite how this happened, and I have a tendency to believe him. I want to believe him, but at any rate, it's academic because he's got the four-game (suspension)."

Waddy, who said the positive test occurred in October, said he is appealing the ruling. But since he probably wouldn't have been able to play anyway because of a rotator-cuff injury in his shoulder, he's serving the suspension now so he would be eligible to play in Super Bowl XXXIII if the Packers got there, or would be able to start next season with almost a clean slate.

Still, just because he's serving the suspension doesn't mean he's admitting to anything. Instead, Waddy called for the league to re-examine both the testing procedure and the suspension process.

“I haven't been taking any steroids, but obviously there's something that needs to be done about the testing procedure within the NFL," Waddy said. “And the way they handle situations like this is you're guilty until proven innocent. And even if I could prove myself innocent, I would still have to face the penalty because I did test positive from one occasion. But I don't know what to do from this point."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, when asked about the accuracy of the league's drug and steroid testing procedures, refused comment. “All I can do is … answer questions about the policy. We don't have anything to say beyond the statement, that he was suspended for violating that policy."

According to the NFL's steroid policy, all players are tested in the preseason, then are randomly selected by computer during the season. Prohibited substances are “anabolic steroids and related substances, growth hormones and beta-2-antagonists, human chorionic gonadatropin, diuretics and other masking agents, and dietary supplements containing prohibited substances."

Waddy said he had not been taking anything like androsteindione (the fabled Mark McGwire supplement which is banned in the NFL) but had been taking other legal dietary supplements. But, he said, everything he took was cleared by the Packers' medical staff first, and those supplements have been sent off to a private lab to be tested to see if anything about them was illegal.

Of course, none of that matters at this point to Waddy, who was one of the surprises of training camp when he made the final roster as an undrafted rookie free agent from William & Mary. Even if he is innocent as he claims, his reputation has already been sullied, he is officially considered a one-time offender and he will lose four games of pay.

“I'm upset. You know, I'm a rookie — I'm not a high draft pick or anything — working hard for everything," Waddy said. “But really I can't do anything about it, so there's no sense crying over spilled milk. Maybe this will cause a change to come up in the future. But as of right now, I have to accept the penalty."

With Jeff Thomason as the team's only healthy tight end, the Packers signed nine-year veteran Scott Galbraith to a contract. The 31-year-old Galbraith, who has not been in the league this year, played in 117 games, with 40 starts. He has caught 60 passes for 670 yards with six touchdowns.

Jason Wilde is a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

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