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Panel threatens to call NFL players

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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A congressional subcommittee threatened to call NFL players before the panel to discuss their union’s reluctance to implement human growth hormone testing.

Leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote in a letter sent to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith on Monday that they were "disappointed with the NFLPA’s remarkable recalcitrance" when it came to the HGH test.

"Although you have requested previously that we communicate directly with the NFLPA on these matters, we now ask that you and that you and your staff not interfere with our efforts to communicate directly with the players or their personal counsel," Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote in a letter obtained by FOXSports.com.

The NFLPA can avoid having its membership hauled before the committee if it provides information requested in the letter – including the union’s current drug-testing proposal — by Feb. 8.

A congressional source told FOXSports.com that minus the cooperation, players could be invited or even subpoenaed to appear at a hearing or a closed-door meeting with lawmakers. Either scenario would leave players open to perjury and obstruction charges — much like seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens faced after testimony in front of the same committee — if federal authorities feel the players’ testimony wasn’t truthful.

"We have always cooperated with the committee and will continue to do so,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah wrote in an email to FOXSports.com. “We have been direct, consistent and transparent with everyone that has taken an interest in this issue. The players believe in a valid, safe and fair HGH testing program."

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This is the latest turn in the NFL’s plan to implement testing for HGH, something the NFL and NFLPA agreed to as part of the collective bargaining agreement ratified before the 2011 season. The NFLPA has resisted the test used several years internationally and more recently by Major League Baseball to catch athletes using HGH, thought to be one of the more widely used performance-enhancing drugs.

The Reform Committee also sent letters to the NBA and its players union seeking why it hasn’t implemented the HGH test, which requires a blood sample.

The NFLPA’s chief concern is that the subjects used in the population study to verify the test aren’t comparable to the NFL’s player population. While doping authorities have dismissed the NFLPA’s concerns, the union has pushed for a new population study that would be more relevant to the physical attributes of its membership.

The Reform Committee called the two sides for a closed-door meeting in October 2011 and last month held a hearing on the science behind the test.
 

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