The 2011 labor agreement included an important provision: HGH testing is coming to the NFL. Nearly 20 months later, HGH testing is no closer than it was before the agreement was signed.
The latest evidence comes from the case of Andrus Veerpalu, an Estonian skier whose three-year suspension was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Naturally, the NFL and the NFLPA disagree as to the meaning of the ruling, and the incident has caused Albert Breer of NFL Network to learn that the two sides have scrapped an agreement to conduct a so-called “population study” aimed at gauging the permissible natural levels of HGH in football players.
The details don’t matter, because neither the NFL nor Congress is willing to do anything more than huff and puff about the union’s refusal to honor the agreement to submit to HGH testing. As a result, the perception is that neither the NFLPA nor the NFL truly want HGH testing.
Since the day the NFL banned the use of HGH, the prohibition has been enforced via the honor system. The problem with the honor system? It works roughly as well as the rhythm method. So with no way to test for HGH, players will get caught only if a vial of HGH falls out of their letterman jackets, or if the player’s name pops up in the records of an HGH supplier the government is prosecuting.
Surely, the NFL and the NFLPA realize that, if/when HGH testing begins, plenty of players will be caught. Which will reduce the supply of healthy players. In turn, players who quit using HGH will not recover as quickly from injuries, likewise reducing the supply of healthy players.
And it won’t be good for the game if players are busted for using HGH, even though most fans presume that they’re using something to get big, to stay big, and/or to rebound from big hits applied by other big men.
If the NFL truly wanted to force the issue on HGH testing, wouldn’t the league unleash the legal hounds and push the issue in court or via an arbitration? The players already have agreed to submit to testing, and the NFL has more than enough ammunition to argue that the NFLPA deliberately is dragging its feet. The idea that the NFL doesn’t want to force players to the needle by court order only goes so far. At some point, the NFL needs to do more than complain about the NFLPA’s refusal to proceed, or the NFLPA will continue to refuse to proceed.
Likewise, Congress has proven to be impotent on the topic, periodically issuing hollow threats but never taking action.
Through it all, the delay has given those who use HGH an opportunity to find better masking agents — or to develop the next wave of substances that work like HGH but for which testing doesn’t yet exist.
The best news for the NFL, the NFLPA, and Congress is that neither the media nor the fans seem to care that the NFL and the NFLPA have struck a deal to abandon the honor system, but that the honor system has continued to be used for two seasons, and counting.