NFL favors blood-testing players for HGH
The NFL has proposed blood-testing its players for human growth hormone, officials familiar with the deliberations said Tuesday.
But the NFL Players Association, which would have to ratify the change for the testing to be put into effect, opposes the proposal, contending that players should not be subjected to blood-testing.
The league currently has HGH on its list of banned performance-enhancing substances but does not test for it.
"Our position is that HGH blood-testing has advanced to the point where we are taking steps to incorporate it into our program," said Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations.
But the players' union is maintaining its long-standing opposition to blood-testing.
"At this point, there's no reason to believe that blood-testing for NFL players will or should be implemented," said George Atallah, the union's assistant executive director of external affairs. "We should instead focus on preserving the drug-testing policy that we have in place."
A professional rugby player in Britain this week is believed to have become the first athlete to be suspended for testing positive for HGH use, a development that drug-testing experts hailed as proof that a newly developed blood test for HGH is effective.
The league's proposal to incorporate blood-testing players for HGH into the NFL's steroid-testing program has been made to the players' union as part of the two sides' ongoing labor negotiations, sources said.
If it were to receive the union's approval, blood-testing for HGH could go into effect as soon as next season. A new labor deal probably won't be completed by then, but the two sides could implement the drug-testing change sooner via a separate agreement. The league and union annually discuss possible changes to their collectively bargained steroid-testing program.
Gene Upshaw, the union's late executive director, also opposed blood-testing players for HGH. He said he would agree to players being tested for HGH as soon as a reliable urine test for it was developed.
Former Washington Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen told HBO in September 2006 that "maybe 15, 20 percent" of NFL players used performance-enhancing drugs and use was "on the rise" because of use of HGH that was going undetected. Former NFL defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield told HBO at the time that he believed at least 30 percent of the players in the league used HGH. Others in the league have said they don't believe the use of HGH by NFL players is that extensive.
The NFL's steroid-testing program is run cooperatively by the league and the union. The NFL's program has been hailed by members of Congress in the past as being the best in professional sports.
But the league and union clashed over the administration of the program after a group of players tested positive for a banned diuretic in 2008.
The players said they ingested the diuretic, bumetanide, by taking the weight loss product StarCaps, and charged officials associated with the NFL's testing program with failing to properly inform players of prior knowledge that StarCaps contained bumetanide. NFL officials denied wrongdoing. The union and two Minnesota Vikings players, defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, filed lawsuits, and the case has played out in state and federal courts. The NFL was barred from enforcing its four-game suspensions of the two Vikings players this past season and decided against enforcing its four-game suspensions of two New Orleans Saints players, defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith.
A federal judge rejected most of the arguments by the union and the two Vikings players but sent a few claims by the players related to Minnesota workplace laws back to a state court to be resolved there. A trial is scheduled to begin next month. The NFL has threatened to turn over control of its steroid-testing program to a federal agency or the World Anti-Doping Agency in the future if it cannot continue to run the testing program effectively in cooperation with the union.
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