It sure sounded good at the time. As part of the new ten-year agreement between the NFL and its players, a pioneering testing plan would begin: players would be tested for human growth hormone (HGH). The NFL would be the first major professional sports league to test its players for the substance that gives athletes a competitive edge, thereby insuring a higher level of integrity and competitive balance in its game. It sounded like a groundbreaking moment for not only the NFL but also potentially for all professional sports leagues.
However, in the words of that eminent philosopher Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” The plan required union consent, which, to this point, has not come. In addition to not consenting, the NFLPA sent out a release on their own testing protocols, which are far different than those proposed by the NFL.
The NFL engaged the World Anti Doping Association (WADA) and has garnered support from dozens of credible and reputable doctors and scientists about its proposed testing plan. And, at the NFL’s urging, Congress has taken steps to move this along, calling on representatives from the league and the union to articulate their positions in front of them, with hearings possibly ahead.
After the agreement in July, the NFLPA has resisted every step of the way. Now with yesterday's press release, they are making a public case, with the following comment from Drew Brees: “This is our joint program, not just the NFL's.” Translation: “We agreed they needed our consent. We’re not going to be forced into a testing program that we don’t like.” The NFLPA believes that the WADA testing protocol – while accurate for Olympic athletes – would result in many false positives for football players, some of whom dwarf Olympic athletes’ size and body mass.
The upshot of all of this is the following:
(1) We are no closer to an agreement on HGH testing in November than we were when the NFL and the NFLPA signed off on it in July; and
(2) The appeals process for positive drug samples – including those for illicit drugs and anabolic steroids – will continue to go right back to the NFL, rather than an independent appeals process that would be implemented in conjunction with the testing.
HGH testing sure sounded impressive when it was announced. And maybe we’ll see it in action in the NFL… In 2012.
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