As the NFL and the NFLPA continue to agree to disagree on the rules for HGH testing, other aspects of what would be new and improved drug policies remain on hold. And the league isn’t bashful about pointing out what the players are missing.
Lost and overlooked amid the many useful nuggets from Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent press conference (but pointed out to PFT by a league insider last night) was this comment: “We have had since 2011, 104 drug-related cases. All have been heard by my designee. Had we implemented the HGH program and the other elements of our drug program from the 2011 agreement, 104 of those players would have actually gone to third-party arbitration. 21 of those would have been referred into the drug program rather than being suspended. Two other players would have faced a two-game suspension rather than a four-game suspension.”
Goodell’s remarks refer to relaxations and other changes to the drug policies that have been delayed by the lingering impasse over HGH testing. The obvious goal is to get the attention of players who may realize that their own future fate could hinge on whether the HGH logjam breaks.
As NFLPA president Eric Winston explained on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live, 95 percent of the HGH testing program has been finalized. The biggest remaining disagreement continues to be whether Goodell or a third-party arbitrator will handle appeals of discipline imposed when players violate the PED policy via something other than a positive drug test.
The parties already have agreed that positive tests under the PED policy will be subject to arbitration. As a league source recently explained it to PFT, that’s a small amount of the total appeals. The source added that, within the past year, at least 35 appeals would have been heard by an arbitrator in the past year, if the new policy were in place.
The league’s message to the players is clear — sign off on HGH testing with Goodell still handling appeals for violations of the policy unrelated to a positive test and get more favorable treatment under the rest of the drug policies. The players’ response is equally clear — if you want HGH testing, agree to arbitration for everything or we’re not budging.
It seems like there’s no middle ground. Both sides would be smart to try to find one.