NFL’s performance-enhancing drug testing will get tougher

'I don’t think the problem ever goes away.' — Dr. John Lombardo

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No NFL player has been caught for using human-growth hormone since testing began last October.

The independent administrator for the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy believes that will eventually change.

“I think the difficulty with the HGH test is the sensitivity of the test and the window that you can detect it,” Dr. John Lombardo told co-host Gil Brandt and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “The test we have now is a very short window. There is another test that is being developed now that has a much longer window – it could be five to eight days. You get that test and it’s going to be a different situation. The short window is a tough one to deal with. And it’s the same in every sport.

“I’m sure at some point in time somebody will test positive if they’re using it.”

After years of negotiations, the NFL and NFL Players Association finally adopted HGH testing as part of an overhaul of the league’s drug programs. About 40 players league-wide are tested during each week of the regular season and five on each playoff team. The NFL also can test for reasonable cause.

Athletes use human-growth hormone in hopes of receiving physical benefits such as increased energy, more muscle mass and faster recovery time. The long-term damage that can occur from taking HGH is one of the reasons for the NFL ban as the league tries to prevent an environment where players feel pressured to risk their health and use performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids to compete with peers who don’t share those same concerns.

Lombardo addressed the PED issue with the players who are attending this week’s NFL Rookie Symposium in Aurora. Asked whether he thinks there are fewer rookies using PEDs than in the past, Lombardo said, “I think you still see it. The education is there. The testing is there in the colleges. It helps. But I don’t think the problem ever goes away.”