HGH testing faces ‘long odds’ for 2014 NFL season


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in the appeals process has been a sticking point in starting the league’s HGH testing program. (David Goldman/AP Photo)

The NFL remains without blood-testing of players for human growth hormone, three years after the league and the players’ union tentatively agreed to such testing as part of their 2011 labor deal. According to one person familiar with the ongoing negotiations between the league and union on the subject, there is only a slim chance of HGH testing of players being put into effect during the 2014 season.

“It’s worth a try but there are long odds,” the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the deliberations.

The tentative 2011 deal on HGH blood-testing included a provision that testing would go into effect only if the league and union could agree to the details of the testing program, and that still hasn’t happened. The two sides at one point were at odds over a population study to determine what would constitute a positive test in athletes the size of NFL players. More recently, the standoff has been over players’ appeal rights, and whether Commissioner Roger Goodell would remain in charge of deciding appeals of suspensions not resulting from a positive test but based on other evidence.

Barring a resolution, testing will remain on hold for a fourth straight season since the 2011 deal. HGH is on the sport’s list of banned substances but players are not tested for it.

League officials have portrayed the union as obstructing the negotiations and not wanting to agree to testing procedures under any circumstances. Union officials have said they want testing but only with a system that it fair and reliable and with proper protections of players’ rights.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said in January in New York during Super Bowl week that an agreement for testing was virtually in place but the appeals issue had to be worked out.

“The HGH policy is done,” Smith said then. “It’s been done. The drug policy overall is 98 percent done. We both agreed to conduct the population study for HGH. We agreed that the results of that population study would set a decision limit with scientific rigor about the level of normal HGH in our players’ body. We discussed and agreed upon what the fines would be or discipline would be. The only two remaining issues on our drug policy is in the area of neutral arbitration. For the first time, there is neutral arbitration in every aspect of the proposed drug policy. And that is something that is clearly something that the players fought for and fought hard for.

“The two exceptions that the league wants to that general statement of neutral arbitration is in two instances, one in which a player has been adjudicated either criminally or civilly as violating the drug policy, or one where the suspension is not based on a positive test but based upon evidence that the player has engaged in a violation of the drug policy.”

 

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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