Representatives of the NFL and the players’ union are scheduled to meet Friday in Washington with members of Congress to discuss the stalled deliberations over blood-testing players for use of human growth hormone.
The two sides were invited to attend the meeting by the leaders of the House committee on Oversight and Government reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.).
As part of their new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, the league and union agreed that players would be subject to annual blood-testing and additional year-round random testing for HGH.
But negotiations on testing procedures have been at a standstill. Union officials have said they have not received the information they have sought about the safety and reliability of the test. NFL officials have said the test is reliable and safe.
The NFL would become the first professional sports league in the U.S. to blood-test its players for HGH with the consent of their union. Minor league baseball players are tested but they are not members of that sport’s players’ union. HGH is on the NFL’s list of banned performance-enhancing substances but players currently are not tested for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have an agreement yet from the union,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference Tuesday following an owners’ meeting in Houston. “We are prepared to do it. We could do it within 10 days of getting that agreement. We know there is interest in Washington, having a meeting, and we are prepared to do that.”
According to a committee spokesman, the meeting will include Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. Other participants, according to the spokesman, are Goodell and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, a member of the union’s ruling executive committee. Travis Tygart, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, also will attend, the spokesman said.
Committee members were disappointed that DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, did not accept an invitation to attend, according to a source close to the committee.
Another source said Smith had a longstanding conflict and asked for the meeting to be rescheduled so he could participate, but that request was denied. According to the union, former NFL player Ernie Conwell, now a union employee, also is scheduled to attend.
“We’re looking forward to working with the congressmen and their staffs,” said George Atallah, the union’s assistant executive director of external affairs.
Several members of Congress previously urged Goodell and Smith to put the testing into effect as soon as possible. Goodell said last week he remained hopeful the testing would be implemented before the season’s end.
A late-August meeting between the league, the union and representatives of the World Anti-Doping Agency failed to satisfy the union that its concerns had been addressed. The validity of the test was endorsed by scientists who wrote this month to the league and union.
It is not clear whether the Capitol Hill meeting will produce significant movement toward putting the testing into effect.
“We look forward to cooperating with the committee and working with the NFLPA to start HGH testing in the NFL as soon as possible,” said Greg Aiello, the league’s senior vice president of communications.