FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter Thursday to leaders of a congressional committee outlining the league's plans for collecting and saving blood samples of players in hopes of eventually testing for human growth hormone.
In the letter to California Rep. Darrell Issa and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Control, Goodell said specimens would not be analyzed and players would not be subject to disciplinary proceedings until remaining issues about the testing regimen are resolved. Until that time, blood samples would be stored.
The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as part of their new collective bargaining agreement reached in late July -- but only if the union agreed to the methods, which it has yet to do. The league was ready to begin collection next week, but on Tuesday, the union told the NFL to hold off.
In the letter obtained by The Associated Press, Goodell told the congressmen that members of USADA, the U.S. anti-doping agency, would be "available to meet with the players and NFLPA officials to review information on testing and the underlying science." Goodell said the meeting "is to occur within two weeks."
Goodell also wrote that a mutually acceptable third party would meet with WADA, the world anti-doping agency, and USADA to review the science underlying the HGH tests. He promised to "work with the players to develop appeal procedures" and emphasized it was the players who proposed random drug testing for HGH and mandatory suspensions for players who test positive.
The union's "concerns about the scientific underpinnings of the tests were literally raised at the last minute," Goodell added.
A spokesman for the NFL Players Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of the key items the NFLPA is seeking is a population study of the test -- the data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test. The union wants to compare that data to a population study on football players; the union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels above those of other athletes.
Earlier this month, nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world signed a letter sent to the NFL and the union stating the current test for HGH is safe, scientifically reliable and appropriate for use in professional sports leagues. That letter was sent to Goodell and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press