APNewsBreak: Top scientists endorse HGH test

Nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the

world have signed a letter sent to the NFL and the players’

association stating the current test for human growth hormone is

safe, scientifically reliable and appropriate for use in

professional sports leagues.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was dated Oct. 3

and sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union Executive

Director DeMaurice Smith.

The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as

part of their new collective bargaining agreement, but only if the

union agreed to the methods. The union has delayed implementing the

test, asking for more scientific data to prove it is reliable.

The letter, signed by 23 scientists and lab directors, says,

”Any suggestion in the press that its accuracy is a matter of

debate is incorrect.”

In another letter obtained by the AP, a separate group of

anti-doping scientists and lab directors also endorsed the

test.

”We want to take the opportunity to confirm that the test

itself is scientifically accepted and has undergone extensive

evaluation,” says that letter, sent to Larry Bowers, the lead

scientist at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, then forwarded by USADA

CEO Travis Tygart to Goodell and Smith.

In all, about five dozen doctors, scientists and lab directors

had their names on the two letters, which were sent to undercut the

union’s questions about the accuracy and validity of a test that

produces an average of one false positive for every 10,000 tests

conducted.

”This further demonstrates that there is simply no excuse for

delaying the start of HGH testing in the NFL,” league spokesman

Greg Aiello said. ”The scientific validity of the test is

unquestioned. The abuse of growth hormone must be deterred to

protect the health of our players and send the right message to

young athletes in all sports.”

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said the union wanted to review

the letters before commenting. The union has asked for more

scientific information about the test so it can do its own

analysis.

One of the key items the NFLPA is seeking is a population study

of the test – the data from the athletes who were used to

originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test.

It wants to compare that data to a population study on football

players; the union believes they could have naturally higher HGH

levels above those of other athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, which sanctions the test, has

declined to produce more information, per the union’s request,

saying plenty of data about the test is available and in the public

domain.

The majority of those who signed the letters have some

connection to WADA or its accredited labs. Those associated with

labs linked to WADA are typically discouraged from making

statements that question the agency’s tests or procedures.

Tygart, in his cover letter to Goodell and Smith, said

scientists at an international anti-doping symposium held in London

earlier this month were ”uniformly troubled” by the delays in

implementing the test.

”The delay is troubling because the scientific validity,

reliability and accuracy of the … test is universally accepted

and attendees at the Symposium recognize that the test is currently

the best way to detect and deter the use of this dangerous,

performance enhancing drug,” Tygart’s letter said.

Even the test’s biggest supporters agree that the HGH test has a

weakness in that it only detects synthetic growth hormone for

around 24 hours after ingestion. But since the test was introduced

in 2004, its accuracy has rarely been questioned this

vehemently.

In an interview earlier this month, Atallah said there ”are

some certain, fundamental things we’re asking for that are not

insane.”