As the NFL and the NFLPA continue to stare at each other like the boys and girls pressed against opposite walls of a middle-school dance on the issue of HGH testing, Congress is getting closer to pushing the walls together, Star Wars Episode IV-style. (I thought twice about making that reference because of the nerdish connotation. But I’ve learned to embrace my nerdishness.)
For now, the wall that’s moving is the one behind the players.
“We are disappointed with the NFLPA’s remarkable recalcitrance, which has prevented meaningful progress on this issue,” Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a letter to the NFL Players Association. “We intend to take a more active role to determine whether the position you have taken — that HGH is not a serious concern and that the test for HGH is unreliable — is consistent with the beliefs of rank and file NFL players.”
The NFL and NFLPA agreed in August 2011 to commence HGH testing.
“Despite being the first of the major professional sports leagues to agree to test for HGH, the NFL has now fallen far behind its counterparts in implementing the agreement,” the letter continues. “While NFLPA management may not believe that HGH is a problem in the NFL, the words of your athletes suggest otherwise. We hope the facts collected by the Committee will provide you and the NFL with the information necessary to resolve this matter.”
The letter also asks the NFLPA to produce a variety of documents and other information, including the NFLPA’s most recent proposal for HGH testing and information regarding any proposals exchanged between the NFL and the NFLPA during meetings that were planned for the week of January 21. (It’s unclear whether any meetings actually happened.)
Congressional involvement in the form of a hearing at which players would testify is something about which both the NFL and the NFLPA should be deeply concerned. If players are using HGH and they tell the truth to Congress, it makes the league and the union look very bad. If players are using it and they lie, the players expose themselves to potential criminal prosecutions.
There’s no reason for the impasse to continue. The NFLPA has said that it will accept HGH testing under the standards and procedures implemented by major-league baseball. The NFL has indicated that would be sufficient. So why not get together — this week in New Orleans — to hash out the details?
If not, players could be getting together in Washington to do something far less pleasant for everyone.