Congressional hearings sought on failure of NFL, union to agree on HGH testing

October 25, 2011

Three members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have asked the committee’s chairman to hold hearings on the failure of the NFL and the players’ union to start their planned blood-testing of players for human growth hormone.

The request for a hearing was made by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, and two other Democratic members of the committee, Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

“Committee hearings will allow us to learn about these issues, hearing from top scientists about the validity of HGH testing and from the NFL and the NFLPA about the extent of HGH use in the league and their plans for testing to eliminate such use,” Waxman, Butterfield and Rush wrote in their letter to Upton.

“We urge you to hold a hearing on this issue as soon as possible.”

Congressional scrutiny of the issue is increasing. Representatives of the league and NFL Players Association met nearly two weeks ago on Capitol Hill with the leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) announced then that blood would be drawn from players soon while the league and union would continue to work out the details of the testing program.

The league informed the union that it was prepared to begin drawing blood from players this week. But the union replied that issues about the testing must be resolved first. Issa and Cummings have said they would hold a follow-up meeting with the league and union.

The NFL and union agreed as part of their 10-year labor deal completed in August that players would be blood-tested for HGH. They targeted early September to begin the testing. But they first had to agree to testing procedures, and those negotiations have been at a standstill, with the union saying it has not received the information it needs about the testing.

DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, said he would welcome a congressional hearing on HGH testing.

“Players’ health and safety and the integrity of the game go hand in hand,” Smith said in a written statement released by the union. “I applaud the members in their request for a hearing and look forward to fully discussing all of these issues as soon as possible. We are sending letters to the teams immediately in order to assist Congress in its fact-finding mission.”

The league issued a written statement that said: “We appreciate the committee’s commitment to this issue, but there should be no need for this hearing if the union would simply live up to its agreements. One was made in August as part of the new CBA to begin testing for HGH and another was reached with Congressmen Issa and Cummings on October 14. The October 14 agreement was to begin collections immediately and then work out the remaining details of the HGH testing program promptly. We stand ready to move forward.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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