The NFL and NFL Players Association have made more progress since the beginning of training camp in moving toward an agreement to implement human growth hormone testing as part of an overall agreement on a comprehensive drug policy.
According to a source, the league and players' union have agreed on all procedural aspects of HGH testing. The last sticking point remaining is the appeals process, and in particular, the presence of a neutral arbitrator.
The union wants a neutral arbitrator to preside over all appeals on the drug policy, according to the source, while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has looked to retain power over matters of law and evidentiary cases. It's important to note that these matters are moving parts and could change as negotiations continue.
As part of this progress, the league and union formalized an agreement late last week on the protocol for a population study, according to sources from both parties.
The league and union reached a basic agreement on the population study just prior to the open of training camps, but the protocol for the blood collection, sample storage and sample destruction remained open until now.
There hasn't yet been an agreement on when to start collecting, per sources.
The NFL's position is that a comprehensive agreement and closure on the entire drug policy should be reached before the population study begins, while the union is open to starting the process of collecting blood for the population study sooner, according to sources.
The good news is many of the procedural issues worked up for the handling of blood and the procedure for screening would carry over from the population study to full-blown testing.
The NFL has been operating under the drug policy of the 2006 collective bargaining agreement the last two years, and HGH testing is just one piece of the broader agreement need. Both the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to discuss stronger sanctions for DUI offenses, given the recent rash of them, and there are a number of other outstanding due-process aspects to appeals and suspensions that need to be taken care of before a new comprehensive drug policy can be finalized.
Both parties have held out hope that HGH testing could be in place for the 2013 season, but a time element now is in play, with the blood-collection process and actual population study itself expected to take a couple months to complete.