“To me it’s clear that WADA is more interested in bullying us into a test than in scientifically supporting and justifying their testing protocol,” NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said.
The union has taken the brunt of public criticism for the delay in implementing an HGH test, but WADA is equally to blame for its lack of transparency and refusal to answer some basic questions the union is asking — questions that Congress and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also should be asking. Questions such as: Is there enough independently published medical science that validates the test? How was it devised, and its parameters established?
Outside experts consider these questions quite reasonable and are asking them too. Doping researcher Don Catlin, founder of the UCLA Olympic lab and the man who cracked the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case, doesn’t want to take a side, but he wonders why there isn’t more material on the test in peer-reviewed journals and noted that all of the scientists who support the test are employed by WADA. While the test may be sound, WADA’s secrecy is a basic violation of good science, he said.
“That’s odd to me,” Catlin said. “I don’t understand it. Scientists with a good finding are usually crawling to get published in a peer-reviewed journal so the world can see it.”
The NFL players are right to hesitate until their queries are answered, according to doping expert Charles Yesalis, professor of health policy at Penn State, who writes textbooks on anabolic steroids. “I love sport, but I’m not going to sacrifice scientific method to play cops and robbers,” Yesalis said.
One of the primary things the NFLPA is asking for and hasn’t gotten is the population study WADA used to develop the test. WADA claims to detect HGH by measuring isoform ratios in human blood: If you show a ratio beyond what WADA scientists consider your natural limit, you are considered guilty of HGH use. But natural limits can vary significantly among people. If you’re an NFL player, you don’t necessarily want to be compared with a Romanian gymnast.
The NFLPA quotes Martin Bidlingmaier, co-founder of the HGH test, who has said that gender, age, body composition, injury history, type of sport, diet and the effects of chronic exercise could all be relevant, and the ratios should be based on “a suitable reference population.” Is WADA’s reference population suitable for 300-pound NFL players? Is it suitable for 6-foot-6 NBA players? Whom did WADA conduct its trials on? Downhill skiers? How big were they, where do they live, what were their diets, their living conditions, their habits? WADA has only provided the NFLPA with some summary info, and not the study itself.