NFL to begin HGH testing
Congress may be gridlocked on several issues, but its intervention may have unclogged one in the NFL.
The NFL and its players union will begin at least the initial phase of testing for human growth hormone, leadership of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said after a closed-door meeting on Friday.
“We got them to begin this process to get there — and not get there next year," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is the ranking member of the Reform Committee. "We were clear that this ball has to be moved down the field immediately."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said collection of blood samples will likely begin within the next two weeks.
“That was the chairman’s instructions,” Goodell said. “Everybody around the table agreed.”
The NFL, the league’s players union and officials from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) were called into the closed door meeting by Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Cummings. Both the NFL and NFLPA had agreed in principal to begin testing for HGH — a performance-enhancing drug that can build lean muscle mass and aid in recovery — as part of the new collective bargain agreement, but the NFLPA has blocked implementation.
“In order to make our players feel confident and comfortable . . . it’s our responsibility to make sure the test is accurate and that we’ve checked it,” said Domonique Foxworth, a cornerback on the Baltimore Ravens and a member of the executive committee. “We want to look them in the eye and say, 'This is a fair and safe process.’”
Players, the league said previously, will be subject to the same four-game ban for a first offense, which mirrors sanctions for steroids.
NFL and NFLPA officials also heard from USADA CEO Travis Tygart and the agency’s chief science officer, Larry Bowers. USADA has used the HGH test for years and Olympic athletes have been subject to a version of the test since the 2004 Summer Games. Eight athletes have tested positive for HGH worldwide, most recently former Colorado Rockies farmhand Mike Jacobs in August.
Issa and Cummings said the subcommittee will help the NFLPA get the information they’ve requested on the test in recent weeks, which includes a population survey along other scientific information and a version of the test kit.
“What (the players) basically laid out were issues of fairness,” Cummings said. “We are concerned about fairness, too. They also talked about if you had a situation (where a result was) not accurate, where do you stand? We understand their whole livelihood and reputations are based on this. I thought the solution we came up with was very balanced, made sense and all parties bought into it.”
Issa said that he was satisfied with the science behind the HGH test and he also said players should not be concerned that blood is required for the test. Union chiefs, including late NFLPA president Gene Upshaw, had opposed blood testing over safety and privacy concerns.
“Every one of these athletes gets blood taken for ordinary tests,” Issa said. “Taking blood for a test is not a big issue and a tablespoon is not a lot to give. It’s not unusual. I go out every year with the Chargers for a blood drive. It’s the players there giving the blood and setting the standard.”
All sides agreed to meet back with House officials within the next month, sooner if the NFL and NFLPA aren’t close to a final agreement on how to handle the results.
“We are not guaranteeing any outcome other then there was an agreement to begin testing immediately,” Issa said. “The other aspects on what to do with the tests will be resolved over the next many weeks.”