NFL, NFLPA Agree To Population Study On HGH Testing, But No Agreement Imminent
The NFL and NFLPA have "made progress toward implementing testing for human growth hormone" and the "hope is to have testing in place" for the '13 season, according to sources cited by Albert Breer of NFL.com. The sides, who have "agreed to conduct a population study, will have another negotiating session this week." An e-mail from the union to players states that the sides "jointly have hired a doctor to conduct a study on players to determine the threshold for a positive HGH test." The e-mail said that the "blood samples will be used solely for the study." A separate memo sent yesterday from the NFLPA to players stated: "In preparation for training camp, you should be prepared to provide a sample of blood for your routine and required training camp physical" (NFL.com, 7/22). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted players were told via e-mail "roughly 10 days ago about the training-camp blood draw." But the information "amazingly ... remained under wraps" until yesterday. The final agreement "could include retroactive testing." Specifically, the blood collected for the population study "could be split into two samples." One would be "used for the population study, and the other would be tested at a later date." This "potential twist, which the NFL affirmatively is seeking, would mean that players whose HGH levels drive up the thresholds for the population study could still face discipline at a later date for HGH levels that helped skew the baseline numbers" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 7/22).
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: In DC, Mark Maske cites a source as saying that there "has been 'progress' but there is 'still a ways to go.'" The source added that the league and union 'have been close before and could not get it done.'" But another source said that the two sides "are 'getting there' on reaching an accord on the issue and the union increasingly appears to be 'ready to agree to something'" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/22). The AP's Barry Wilner noted the union has "reservations about the way discipline will be handed out, and wants to collectively bargain that issue." In the union's e-mail, it "told the players that Dr. Alan Rogol has been jointly hired by the NFLPA and NFL to oversee the study and supervise two jointly retained biostatisticians." One of those biostatisticians, Donald Berry, will "design the study protocol and conduct the analysis." The second will "independently review both the protocol and the analysis" (AP, 7/22). SI.com's Jim Trotter noted it is believed that once an agreement is reached, it will be "the most scientifically valid HGH test in pro sports." MLB is the "only professional league that has HGH testing, but it did not do a population study" (SI.com, 7/22).
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: NFL Network's Steve Wyche said it is a "positive sign because the league has wanted to have HGH testing for years." He added, "There's been pushback from the players' association because, mainly, the science behind it, but not necessarily even the science, the testing methodology. The players want to make sure that it's foolproof" with a blood test. NFL Net's Mark Kriegel: "I'll believe it when I see it. This is part of a larger trend. For this year, I'd be curious as to see how they could really implement it on the eve of a season, but it's also part of a larger, broader trend in all of sports" ("NFL AM," NFL Network, 7/22). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes after "so many stops and starts on this winding path to HGH testing ... I'm wondering if this is yet another tease." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith has "consistently declared that he wants a clean sport, even as he has moved the target in negotiating for HGH testing and drawn criticism for using stall tactics." He also has "stuck to his guns on the population study, despite one anti-doping expert after another contending it's useless." Bell: "So what happens when the population study results come in? Will the sides agree on how to interpret them and thus set the levels for that?" (USA TODAY, 7/23). ESPN's Ed Werder said, "It’s a huge development that the two sides agree on the scientist who's going to oversee the implementation of this program and that could actually happen before the regular season begins" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/22).