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Brandon Marshall: I've heard of players using Viagra 'to get an edge'

The NFL's fight against performance-enhancing drug (PED) use amongst its players has focused recently on Adderall -- Tampa Bay's Eric Wright just landed a four-game suspension for taking that drug, while Seattle cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman face similar punishments.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall told reporters Wednesday, though, that Adderall is not the only unusual source of help turned to by some NFL players. From Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs provided an extended version of Marshall's comments:

"I don’t know too much about Adderall," Marshall said. "I know guys, it is such a competitive league, guys try anything just to get that edge. I’m fortunate enough to be blessed with size and some smarts to give me my edge. But some guys, they’ll do whatever they can to get an edge. I’ve heard of some crazy stories. I’ve heard (of) guys using like Viagra, seriously. Because the blood is supposedly thin, some crazy stuff. So, you know, it’s kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these things so you have to be careful."

Naturally, Twitter erupted with a plethora of quippy responses to Marshall's revelation. But the notion of NFL players taking Viagra may not be as far-fetched or ridiculous as you might think.

The use of Viagra by athletes is a phenomenon that's been tackled by many news outlets in the past, including online news magazine Slate and the New York Times. In a 2008 piece entitled "Does Viagra gives athletes an advantage?", the Times examined why the little blue pill might be the next wave of PEDs.

Viagra, or sildenafil citrate, was devised to treat pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in arteries of the lungs. The drug works by suppressing an enzyme that controls blood flow, allowing the vessels to relax and widen. The same mechanism facilitates blood flow into the penis of impotent men. In the case of athletes, increased cardiac output and more efficient transport of oxygenated fuel to the muscles can enhance endurance.

Viagra provides a different effect than Adderall -- the latter's effect was described by NFL senior vice president of labor law and policy Adolph Birch to USA Today as "a stimulant that can combat fatigue and feelings of fatigue on a playing field." However, for players, the main goal is the same: to find a boost, even an unnatural one.

The NFL has been fairly proactive with its attempt to corral PED use, even putting a clause in the league's new collective bargaining agreement (agreed to last year) that allowed game-day testing for those substances.

But as Marshall's comments indicate, players, either desperate for a little help improving their play or simply some help making it through a brutal NFL season, will continue to push the boundaries of what is and is not allowed.

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