DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Thursday that the union continues to negotiate with the league about the specifics of a blood-testing program for human growth hormone.
There have been recent indications of progress toward an agreement on protocols that would allow testing of players to begin by next season. But Smith said Thursday at the union’s annual Super Bowl news conference that players will not agree to testing until their concerns about the reliability and safety of the procedures have been fully addressed.
“Those talks continue,” Smith said. “But as we said before, we are going to continue to fight to ensure that due process is not thrown away in the name of having a test…. No one will bully us into a test. No one will force the players to accept a test that is unfair.”
In the 10-year labor pact reached last summer, the league and players agreed to blood-testing for HGH and targeted the start of the current season last September to begin it. But the two sides first must agree to testing procedures. The union has proposed conducting a population study to determine the proper standards for a positive test for athletes the size of NFL players.
During the labor negotiations, the league abandoned a proposal to lengthen the regular season from 16 to 18 games per team. The union had objected to that proposal, citing concerns about the number and severity of injuries that players might suffer in a longer season.
The league has expressed a desire to revisit the 18-game proposal. Smith did not totally rule it out when he was questioned Thursday, but said the union’s concerns remain unchanged.
“All of those issues will be considered in the paradigm of what is in the best interests of the health and safety of the players,” Smith said.
Smith’s contract is expiring. He faces a re-election vote by the players in March. Attorney David Cornwell recently sent a memo to agents critical of Smith’s performance. Smith dismissed the criticism, saying Cornwell’s allegations were inaccurate.
Former NFL center Kevin Mawae’s term as union president also ends in March.
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