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Volume 24 No. 159
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De Smith: NFLPA Agreeable To HGH Testing If It Mirrors MLB Process

NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday said that the union “would be agreeable to HGH testing if the NFL mirrored the plan” announced last week by MLB, according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. HGH testing has been “at a standstill in the NFL, despite the announcement by the league and players union more than 18 months ago that it would become the first U.S. pro sports league to test” for HGH. Smith said, "The day when the league simply says it is willing to adopt a system similar or identical to what Major League Baseball agreed to, that's a day that we'll have HGH testing in the NFL." Smith said that the union “wanted HGH testing but he was unconvinced by the science to produce reliable tests.” Smith said he likes MLB's plan because a player on appeal "has the ability to file his case to a neutral arbitrator and challenge the underlying science" of the test.” Smith said the move is "something the league has steadfastly opposed." NFL Senior VP/Law & Labor Policy Adolpho Birch said that the league “already had agreed to third-party arbitration” (USA TODAY, 1/16). Smith also discussed a “wide range of topics” with Bell in a recent Q&A. Below are excerpts from the interview:

Q: There's still no testing for HGH in the NFL. Are you concerned there are players who are doping but are not being exposed?
Smith: If someone were going to tell me they knew of a player in the NFL taking HGH and it's going undetected, yes, I'd be concerned. So far, no one has said that. Our players want a clean game more than (Commissioner) Roger Goodell wants a clean game. The only people who put themselves at risk on the football field are members of this union. The last time we checked, not one owner got hurt at a game. And when you talk to every one of the players, they want a clean game. But they also want a system that is fair and transparent.

Q: This season has included off-the-field tragedies with the murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher and a DUI manslaughter case with Josh Brent that cost the life of Jerry Brown. How can the union get players to take better advantage of resources available?
Smith: Last year we started a program that we don't talk about publicly, because it could inhibit a player's desire to remain confidential, but virtually any player who needs help can get help confidentially, paid for by the union. I don't know who (the player) is, nobody on staff knows who it is. It's a double-blind system. They call an 800 number, they can be in any treatment center in the United States within 24 hours. If you need help, as a man who has obligations, it's your duty to seek that help.

Q: The league has resisted the union's push for sideline concussion experts. Why?
Smith: They've said this person would get in the way of the evaluation by the team doctor who knows the player better. That really doesn't make sense. If you have two doctors to make sure the player is safe, it seems to me that that's a better system (USA TODAY, 1/16).