A top NFL official was critical Thursday of the assertion this week by the players’ union that blood-testing of players for human growth hormone would commence if the league would agree to an appeals system acceptable to the players.
“It’s hard to understand what it is about the [appeals] system that they’re saying they need that we have not made a proposal on,” said Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of law and labor policy. “It is clear that in response to the recent set of issues raised, we put forward a proposal that addressed every one of the stated concerns that they had concerning the appeals process.”
Birch said the sport’s blood testing for HGH should have been implemented long ago.
“It’s just enough,” he said at the NFL scouting combine. “We’ve been through this for two years now.”
The league and union agreed as part of their 10-year labor deal in 2011 that players would be blood-tested for HGH. But the two sides first had to agree to the details of the testing program, and that still has not happened.
“There is absolutely no reason for this to have taken this long and us not have testing implemented,” Birch said. “We should have been more than a year into this by now.”
Domonique Foxworth, the retired cornerback who is the president of the NFL Players Association, said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday that players would consent to what they regard as an imperfect test if it was accompanied by an appeals process acceptable to the players.
Birch said Thursday that the league has proposed appeals to an independent third party and appeals that would allow players to challenge the science behind the testing, as players have said they wanted.
“We were talking about a population study for the better part of a year and a half,” Birch said. “Now we’re apparently talking about appeals processes and independent or third-party arbitration, which has been on the table and part of the proposal since 2009, 2010.”
The league and union previously were unable to launch a population study, requested by the union, that would have examined the issue of what properly should constitute a positive test for athletes the size of NFL players. Birch said Thursday there is “zero need” for such a study.
HGH is on the NFL’s list of banned performance-enhancing substances but players currently are not tested for it.
“I have concerns for the vast majority of our players who are clean and want to compete in the right way, that they are being sacrificed for issues that don’t involve the policy and are really more about trying to get do-overs on issues that are unrelated to the effectiveness of this particular steroid policy,” Birch said.
Foxworth said Tuesday that players don’t trust the league or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Birch said Thursday that the union is attempting to revisit issues that already have been resolved.
“I do think that there is an effort to go back and revisit a lot of things that were agreed to, negotiated on extensively and agreed to by the parties… that represent efforts to sort of take another look at things that are already decided,” Birch said. “And I think that’s everything from the implementation of HGH testing to the commissioner’s authority on conduct-detrimental cases to any number of things. I do think at the end of the day that it is a disservice to all for us not to be able to focus on the issue at hand, particularly in the context of HGH testing, and to understand what the implications of continuing to delay this are…. It is a tremendous disservice.”