The NFL and NFL Players Association are on the verge of implementing testing for Human Growth Hormone following a meeting Friday with two congressmen in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) delivered a strong message during an hour-long meeting with the league and union, according to sources, telling the NFL and NFLPA to "do it now or we meet again in two weeks, and it won't be pleasant." The league and union agreed, which is expected to lay the groundwork for the implementation of testing.
The congressmen told the league and union that regardless of any disagreements over details of the testing, they would like blood samples to be collected within a week. If elements of the policy still need to be worked out, the congressmen said the samples would be stored for later testing.
When the union does agree to blood testing for HGH, as it is written in the new collective bargaining agreement, the appeals process for the drug policy will be taken out of commissioner Roger Goodell's hands and go to a third party.
"We're not guaranteeing any outcomes except there was an agreement to begin testing immediately," Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters after the meeting. "The other aspects of what you do with the tests will be resolved over the next many weeks, and we've agreed on a bipartisan basis to have the committee play a role if necessary."
Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said he felt the two sides benefited from being called in.
"Because I think they had their own disputes, and it seemed like they just could not move quite past a certain point," he said.
He stressed that the lawmakers wanted action now: "Not get there next year -- we were clear that the ball has to move down the field immediately."
But the union didn't seem inclined to move off its previous position: That it wants questions answered before moving ahead with a blood-testing program.
"We believe that we have to report back to our players, make sure that the protocol and the testing protocols are safe," union spokesman George Atallah said, standing in the same spot as the lawmakers shortly after their news conference. "Once we feel that way, which we hope will be as soon as possible -- obviously the chairman and Congressman Cummings can help us facilitate that -- we'll be in a position to start testing as soon as possible."
Asked if the union agreed to testing this season, he responded, "We will begin implementing testing as fast as possible."
Later, he tweeted, "The challenge for us as a league and a sport is to ensure that we have a clean game, but a fair system."
The latest collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players includes a provision to begin testing players for HGH -- contingent on the union agreeing to the testing methods. The NFLPA has asked for more scientific data to prove the most popular test is reliable.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.