SBD/Issue 236/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Looking At Strengthening Drug-Testing Policy This Season

Gene Upshaw Promises To
Oppose Blood Testing
The NFL “is discussing strengthening its testing program for performance-enhancing drugs and could make changes during the season,” according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. Among the “potential modifications are more frequent testing and additions to the list of banned substances.” But the NFL said that changes to the policy “would be part of its regular review, not a response” to the Dr. James Shortt/Panthers case. NFL Exec VP/Labor Relations Harold Henderson: “It might make sense to do some tweaking.” NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw last week said that he “would not allow blood collection” to test for HGH. Upshaw: “I’m not ready to take that leap.” Battista notes the league “rejects the suggestion that it should farm out the administration of its program, including appeals and penalties, to an outside group” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/6).

MCCAIN: U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has been active in efforts to strengthen drug testing in sports, said of the difference in perception between how MLB and the NFL handle drug issues, “[The NFL has] a great PR machine. When Gene Upshaw and [former Commissioner Paul] Tagliabue testified, they were very convincing. ... And so I think they’re getting off more lightly than perhaps they should” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/6).

POLLING THE PLAYERS: In N.Y., Gary Myers polled a panel of seven NFL players on five issues related to performance-enhancing drugs. Following are the questions and responses.

Q1: Is NFL drug testing “almost a joke?”
Yes: 1
No: 5
Don’t Know: 1
The yes vote “came from a player disgusted with the testing procedure for cocaine, marijuana, etc. Once a player comes up clean in his preseason test, he has a free ride the rest of the year.”

Q2: Are players finding a way to cheat on the test?
Yes: 4
No: 1
Don’t Know: 2

Q3: Are there players in the league using steroids?
Yes: 4
No: 1
Don’t Know: 2
One player said, “It’s possible. Very possible.” Another added there is probably a “handful of guys” doing steroids.

Q4: Are there players in the league using HGH?
Yes: 1
No: 1
Don’t Know: 5

Q5: Has the NFL been flying under the radar because of the focus on steroids in baseball?
Yes: 0
No: 7
Don’t Know: 0
One player: “Maybe baseball has drawn more attention to the minor abuses in the NFL, but I don’t think it’s a problem in our league” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/6).

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