NFL, union head to meet with feds
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players union chief DeMaurice Smith have been asked to meet in private with members of a house subcommittee to “discuss plans for the implementation of testing” of human growth hormone, according to a letter obtained Thursday by FOXSports.com.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed as part of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement to begin testing for HGH, a performance-enhancing drug that can help build lean muscle mass and aid in recovery. But the NFL Players Association has blocked the test from moving forward because of concerns about its validity.
“We believe the league and its players remain best positioned to implement an HGH testing regime, but concerns have been raised about the status of these efforts,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a joint statement. “The purpose of this meeting is to understand the concerns of the players and the league and to strongly convey our universal interest in protecting the health of millions of younger athletes across the country.”
Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, also has been invited to meet with the Reform Committee, which was responsible for the Roger Clemens hearing and others dealing with performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
“We are disappointed in the union's failure to follow through on its commitment to HGH testing to ensure the integrity of competition on the field, protect the health of NFL players and send the right message to young athletes,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail. “We appreciate the committee's interest and look forward to cooperating with the members on this matter.”
No hearing has been scheduled on the NFL issue, although Issa could move to have one scheduled if members don’t like what they hear or if the sides don’t cooperate, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The only way to test for HGH is through blood samples, something professional sports unions have long resisted because of privacy and health concerns. The NFL is committed to spending millions annually to become the first major pro league in the US to randomly test players for HGH, and screenings were slated to begin Week 1.
“By making use of the latest technology, the NFL and its players appear poised to be leaders in the effort to ensure that competition is not tainted by banned substances,” Issa and Cummings wrote in a letter to Goodell.
The NFLPA has asked for more information about the test, a version of which has been used internationally since 2004. Doping experts and the NFL have said those requests amount to nothing more than stalling tactics.
Eight athletes have tested positive for HGH, one of the most difficult PEDs to detect. Major League Baseball implemented HGH testing in the minor leagues, and Mike Jacobs, a farmhand in the Colorado Rockies organization, in August became the first US athlete to test positive for the synthetic hormone.