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NFL players face unlimited random HGH tests

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Each NFL player would be blood-tested once annually, and additionally would face an unlimited number of random blood tests for human growth hormone each year under the program scheduled to begin this season, according to the league.

The blood-testing will be run much like the sport’s existing program for other banned performance-enhancing substances, an NFL spokesman said. The league currently conducts about 14,000 steroids tests annually on its nearly 2,000 players, according to the spokesman.

Each player would be given a scheduled blood-test for HGH once each year during the preseason. In addition, players would be subject to year-round random testing. Each player could be tested an unlimited number of times during the season and up to six times during the offseason.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in televised and radio interviews Friday that he expected the HGH testing program to take effect during the opening week of the season. The regular season begins Sept. 8.

The players’ union agreed to HGH blood-testing when the players gave final approval Thursday to a 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the league, making the NFL the first U.S. professional sports league to blood-test its athletes for HGH with their union’s consent. Under the terms of the labor accord, the two sides first must meet to determine testing procedures.

The labor deal states that “the parties confirm that the [steroids-testing program] will include both annual blood testing and random blood testing for human growth hormone, with discipline for positive tests at the same level as for steroids. Over the next several weeks, the parties will discuss and develop the specific arrangements relating to the safe and secure collection of samples, transportation and testing of samples, the scope of review of the medical science, and the arbitrator review policy, with the goal of beginning testing by the first week of the 2011 regular season.”

The steroids-testing policy could revert to last season’s terms, without blood-testing for HGH, if the two sides don’t work out the procedures. But under those circumstances, the players would not be able to appeal disciplinary actions under the drug program to an independent arbitrator, as offered by the league during the negotiations for the new labor deal. Such appeals currently are decided by the league.

Officials from both sides seem confident that testing procedures will be worked out in time for HGH blood-testing to begin the opening week of the season.

Another provision of the new CBA will exempt first-time offenders under the league’s personal conduct policy from league-imposed disciplinary action for violations incurred during the lockout. But repeat offenders do face potential disciplinary actions for personal conduct violations incurred during the lockout, according to a person with knowledge of the deliberations on the subject.

According to that person, a first-time offender would not be disciplined but would be treated as a repeat offender for any future violations. The policy was first reported by the New York Times.

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