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NFL proposes drug testing players for human growth hormone

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010; D03

The NFL has proposed blood-testing its players for human growth hormone, officials familiar with the deliberations said Tuesday. The NFL Players Association, which would have to ratify the change for the testing to be put into effect, opposes the proposal, saying that players should not be subjected to blood-testing.

The league currently has HGH on its list of banned performance-enhancing substances but does not test for it.

"Our position is that HGH blood testing has advanced to the point where we are taking steps to incorporate it into our program," said Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations.

But the players' union is maintaining its long-standing opposition to blood-testing.

"At this point, there's no reason to believe that blood-testing for NFL players will or should be implemented," said George Atallah, the union's assistant executive director of external affairs. "We should instead focus on preserving the drug-testing policy that we have in place."

A professional rugby player in Britain this week is believed to have been the first athlete suspended for testing positive for HGH use, a development that drug-testing experts hailed as proof that a newly developed blood test for HGH is effective.

The NFL's proposal to incorporate blood-testing players for HGH into its steroid-testing program has been made to the players' union as part of the two sides' ongoing labor negotiations, sources said.

If it were to receive the union's approval, blood-testing for HGH could go into effect as soon as next season. A new labor deal probably won't be completed by then, but the two sides could implement the drug-testing change sooner via a separate agreement. The league and union annually discuss possible changes to their collectively bargained steroids-testing program.

Gene Upshaw, the union's late executive director, opposed blood-testing players for HGH. He said he would agree to testing for HGH as soon as a reliable urine test for it was developed.

Former Washington Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen told HBO in September 2006 that "maybe 15, 20 percent" of NFL players used performance-enhancing drugs and use was "on the rise" because of HGH use that was going undetected. Former NFL defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield told HBO at the time that he believed at least 30 percent of the league's players used HGH. Others have said they don't believe the use of HGH by NFL players is that extensive.

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