Blog Entry

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:06 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 9:09 am
By Will Brinson

The NFL was supposed to have Human Growth Hormone (HGH) testing by the time the 2011 season kicked off, but a difference of opinion between the league and union on the transparency of testing remains a critical sticking point.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL and NFLPA agreed only to "discuss and develop" -- not to actually implement -- a plan for HGH testing in the NFL. So even though the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is prepared to begin testing, until the union approves the testing procedure, there's little the league can do outside of posture to make testing a reality.

The NFLPA wants to see the specifics of WADA's population studies as they relate to the organization's test. WADA believes their basic test for HGH is an acceptable standard already. And the NFL thinks the union is simply "stalling."

"There is no debate among the experts about the validity of the test," NFL VP of communications Greg Aiello told Thursday. "The union is simply continuing to engage in stalling tactics."

The NFLPA's argument isn't against the validity of the test, however, but rather the transparency involved in creating the baseline standards for determining what players took HGH.

"Nobody knows what goes into the WADA standard of how they adjudicate players who have apparently or been told they take HGH," NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said recently at NFLPA headquarters. "So if we are going to go to a system where our guys are going to be measured against a standard we can't see and a standard that we can't challenge, if you were in my job would you recommend doing that? No."

Because HGH is a naturally occurring substance within the human body, testing whether or not an individual is using the hormone anabolically isn't as simple as drawing blood and detecting a presence of HGH. It exists in the bodies and blood of NFL fans as much as it does NFL players.

The issue at hand for the NFL and NFLPA, then, is determining what the baseline level of HGH in a "normal" football players is, and then using that to move forward in testing players. One problem -- WADA not only will not provide a separate population study for NFL players, but the organization believes the NFLPA's running with ulterior motives when it comes to roadblocking the test.

"The players are making a very good go of trying to say it is a problem by not agreeing to be tested. I would have thought if there wasn't a problem, they would say, 'Hey, test us,'" WADA director general David Howman said at a recent anti-doping conference. "If you've got nothing to hide, open up."

According to Smith, however, the players did offer to "open up," and test NFL players to create a separate population study by which to judge players who test positive.

"We said, fine, if you don't want to turn over that information, here's what we'll do," Smith said. "We will test the players themselves, create our own population study, where we can know it, we can see it and we can see the standard. And then after that we can see the standard and we will know whether or not that standard is applicable and we can ensure that standard is scientifically reliable."

WADA declined the NFLPA's offer, in part, because the organization believes its current test ("in operation since 2004" according to WADA's Senior Manager Media Relations and Communications Terence O'Rourke) provides an acceptable standard by which to measure the level of HGH in any athlete, including football players.

"Based on the concept of the test, there is no reason to believe that American footballers behave any differently than the tens of thousands of athletes being subject to this HGH test," O'Rourke told "Please note that this individual information has no bearing on the validity of the test. That is why there is absolutely no point in conducting another sample study."

Complicating the problem is the appeals process for players who test positive for HGH. If the news is discovered (and/or the player is suspended), there's already a public backlash waiting to happen. And as we've seen with numerous instances of cycling over the past few years, positive tests can devolved into ugly he-said-type public-relations battles.

The good news is that there's an available remedy.

"Athletes do NOT appeal to WADA, they appeal either to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) or, at national level, to a suitable independent and impartial body as outlined in Article 13.2.2 of the [World Anti-Doping Code]," O'Rourke told (You can find the code here in .PDF format.)

If the parties involved were able to reach a comprimise on what might qualify as a "suitable independent and impartial body" there's a chance the implementation of HGH testing could be expedited.

But as we've seen with player discipline, finding an impartial group of people who don't have an opinion about the NFL one way or another is a pretty difficult thing to do.

So as it stands right now, there's little chance that the NFL sees HGH testing in the immediate future, with the 2011 season almost entirely off the table at this point.

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Since: Jun 19, 2011
Posted on: December 9, 2011 8:00 pm

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

The Owners are going about this the wrong way instead of going to Congress they need to be going straight to the National Labor Ruling Board and say look this is what they(The Players) agree to when they agreed to the CBA they don't want to agree to this term so we woul dlike the NLRB to declare the CBA nul and void and tell the Union either start testing right now or no more Football till you do.

Since: Dec 20, 2006
Posted on: December 9, 2011 5:06 pm

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

What's holding up HGH testing in the NFL? How else are 275 pound linebackers supposed to run a 4.45 40 yard dash??? You think the injuries in the NFL are bad now? If players didn't use HGH they wouldn't be able to suit up from week to week...

Since: Dec 24, 2006
Posted on: December 9, 2011 3:36 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: May 8, 2011
Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:49 pm

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

Mr. Smiths argument for delaying the testing sounds typical for someone who has no concept of how analytical testing is done. If WADA has done tens of thousands of tests on a veriety of athelets then THEY have a good baseline to go by and can supply the information of how different athletes rate. So saying that a lineman vs a quarterback might have different levels is a mute point Testing isn't for punishment it is for the players health. I bet you Lyle Alzado wishes steroids were tested soonner.
If the Union truley has the players safety as their prime objestive, then they should go for it. If too many people test positive then they can prove the tests are invalid and it could be a do over. Not even the NFL will suspend hundreds of players giving there golden goose a black eye. Does Mr. Smith have his rank & file at heart or does he give a s#*~ now that he got his Million $ bonus for the contract talks.

Since: Nov 8, 2010
Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:38 pm

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

Find a sample that approximates the population, test them for levels of HGH, and if a player has a level higher than 1.5 standard deviations above the mean HGH level, fine/suspend him. 

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:20 pm

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

The comment on cycling was spot on.  NFLPA and NFL need to agree on who is doing the test and where so we dont have the oops we checked the sample after the game and it was above the normal threshold of a normal athlete.  NFL players must have a level playing field to be t4ested so a benchmark is established say at the Beginning of training camp with physicals.  Then you can see in season tests compared to the previous start point.  I do not know how long these stimulants stay in the system, but every position player could be different as to what is a normal level.  Pumping iron for a lineman versus a QB or CB would be difficult to mesure what normal is.  Cyclists, marathon runners, Baseball Players, etc would seem to be easier to get a standard on than the NFL Players.  I would not want to be thrown into a system where I'm not sure how the test applies to everyone.

Since: May 13, 2007
Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:46 am

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

Maybe it is time to realize that maybe science in this day and age needs to be regarded as a new era. We live in a world regarding sports anyway, of athletes making millions of dollars to prolong thier careers. Just like the first car being built, improvements are made and continue to be made BETTER. I think it might be time to re-evaluate the effects, and why it is made in the first place and available to players in every sport. There has to be some good in it. Players risking thier careers if they get caught? Or aging players making a decision ...if they get what..just quit...and risk the Hall of Fame in all sports. I think things need to be updated because of Science today...Just my take on it.

Since: Dec 9, 2006
Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:17 am

NFL: Union 'stalling' on HGH; NFLPA wants clarity

That's cause over half the players on on the stuff.

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