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NFL wants its players tested for human growth hormone

The NFL believes now is the time to include human growth hormone testing in its banned substances policy and is pushing players to add it to a collective bargaining agreement -- whenever one is reached.

The NFL and NFL Players Association discussed the policy before the union decertified March 11 and league owners imposed a lockout March 12, but no details were provided regarding where things stood.

Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president of law and labor policy, said Friday that the league wants players to accept testing for human growth hormone.
Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president of law and labor policy, said Friday that the league wants players to accept testing for human growth hormone. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

News of the league's insistence on HGH testing being part of the new CBA was first reported Thursday by FoxSports.com.

Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president of law and labor policy, said Friday that the league has pushed for HGH testing since 2008, but with the opportunity to re-cast terms of a labor deal, it has become a priority. The NFLPA had resisted it in the past because of HGH testing methods and the reliability of results.

Blood testing remains the most reliable means to detect the presence of HGH, and that has been the sticking point -- not both sides' desire for fair play, Birch said.

"In terms of the policy, we've always been in lockstep with the players," Birch said. "It's an important tool in deterring -- that's maybe the most important part -- and detecting those who are using (HGH). It helps the public understand what they are seeing is legitimate and that it's not the result of artificial means. It's equally important to players to know that someone hasn't gained an artificial advantage over them."

The NFLPA, which became a trade association after the decertification, declined comment.

While the league is pushing for HGH testing, it might not be a deal-breaker in forming a new CBA with so many other issues -- mainly economic -- causing the rift that has ceased football operations. However, the augmentation and improvement of banned substance policies -- not just those involving HGH -- will be elements of a future deal, Birch said.

Players routinely and randomly must submit urine tests for banned substances, including performance-enhancing drugs and narcotics. Studies have shown that urine tests haven't proven to be accurate in determining HGH usage.

Players have opposed routine blood tests except for when they are given annual physicals. In those circumstances, blood tests are for medical purposes, such as determining if a player has high cholesterol or other issues. Though HGH testing could, technically, be administered when blood is drawn for those once-yearly tests, it wouldn't prevent users from circumventing the tests by stopping in enough time to avoid detection or resuming once the tests have been completed.

"We agree on the overall themes of testing overall," Birch said. "It's high time HGH is added to the list of things we can test for."

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