Players' HGH stance could be costly

Posted Oct. 08, 2011 @ 9:09 p.m.
Posted By Ron Borges

Dragging your feet to stay inbounds on a pass reception is a good thing. Dragging your feet to keep testing for HGH out of bounds is a bad thing, and the NFL Players Association needs to stop doing it.

In a nutshell, that is the situation at the moment. The NFLPA continues its refusal to accept blood-testing protocols for human growth hormone usage among its members, even after agreeing "in principle'' to such testing as part of the recently signed 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union is playing games with semantics, insisting that it agreed to such testing only after "close examination'' of the testing methods. That is, to be kind, hogwash, because it already knew what the methods would be and that the tests would be administered under World Anti-Doping Agency standards.

HGH builds muscle mass, burns fat and accelerates recovery time from injury. It is a banned substance, except under a doctor's supervision, but is widely used among bodybuilders and by other competitive athletes. It is undetectable by anything but a blood test and is difficult to find even through blood testing because it clears the system between 24 and 48 hours after being injected. Hence, the likelihood of catching users is low even with random blood testing.

The union has expressed concerns about the appeals process, as well as the reliability of the testing, and recently argued in a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that it was unsure WADA's testing was of a population representative of NFL players' physiologies and activity levels. What do they think Olympic athletes do? Train on bonbons and beer?

NFL players are not a different species, as the union is implying. They are the same species on high-test gas. The abnormal size of players clearly has been a contributing factor in the increasing number of concussions around the league, a health issue with long-term consequences.

Yet, the organization that in theory is most concerned about player health seems more worried about protecting drug abusers than their victims. The union recently requested a meeting with WADA officials and their doctors and left unsatisfied with what it was told. Maybe that's because what it was told was random blood testing might catch a few abusers?

Major League Baseball did the same kind of foot dragging on this subject and is still paying the price for it. Pro football now has Congress looming over its ultra-wide shoulders, as baseball did. In 2005, it was congressional hearings that blew the lid off baseball's dirty secret by publicly exposing the hypocrisy of its players.

If DeMaurice Smith wants to risk the same thing for NFL players, he need only continue tiptoeing around the edges between good sense and bad business. Before long, he and his players will be forced out of bounds, too, and they won't like where they land.

"We are disappointed in the union's failure to follow through on its commitment to HGH testing to ensure the integrity of competition on the field, protect the health of NFL players and send the right message to young athletes,'' the NFL said in a statement.

What the NFL really was saying was the NFLPA is all alone on this limb now. It would be wise for the union to cut a deal before someone cuts it off.