With the Olympics starting, Friday provided a perfect opportunity for Congress to renew pressure on the NFL and NFLPA regarding the ongoing absence of HGH testing, a standard component of Olympic drug testing.
Four members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (two from each party) sent a letter Friday to Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith urging them to implement last year’s agreement to conduct HGH testing.
“Without HGH testing, the performance enhancing drug provisions in your collective bargaining agreement will not be able to effectively deter the use of this drug,” the letter from Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Henry Waxman (D-Cal.), Mary Bono Mack (R-Cal.), and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) states. “And this failure sends a terrible message to young athletes and fans that player safety and a level playing field are not priorities.”
The letter explains that Congress “has been reluctant to engage more deeply in this matter, believing this is a problem best solved by allowing labor and management to follow through on their agreement.” But with no specific threat/promise to intervene, the NFL and NFLPA can continue to drag their feet.
And while it’s widely perceived that the NFLPA has delayed the process by insisting on a population study to account for the physiological differences between football players and Olympic athletes generally, the league hasn’t done much if anything to force the NFLPA to honor it’s written commitment to submit to testing. Frankly, it’s almost as if the league is content not to push forward with testing, as long as it’s the union and not the league that gets the bulk of the blame.
If, after all, the HGH problem is worse than believed, many players will be subject to suspension. Perhaps more importantly, if players who are using HGH to recover from injuries suddenly must stop, then they won’t recover from injuries as quickly and the teams will have a harder time putting a product on the field.
Regardless of the reasons, something doesn’t seem right. If the NFLPA is dragging its feet, the NFL has remedies at its disposal to push the issue forward, whether under the CBA or before the National Labor Relations Board of even in court. But the NFL to date hasn’t used them.
For now, the league has responded to the letter with a promise to respond later. “We appreciate and share the concern of the committee,” the league said in a statement, “and will respond to the letter as soon as possible.”
That’s not really much of a response.
Thus, if Congress wants to see HGH testing in the NFL, it’s time to stop huffing and puffing and time to start holding hearings and putting people under oath and finding out how deep this rabbit hole goes and why the NFL and NFLPA apparently aren’t interested in plugging it up.