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Report: NFL insistent on HGH testing in new agreement

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  March 24, 2011 06:30 PM

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As if there weren't enough back-and-forth, he said/he said between the NFL and the NFL Players' Association, now there's today's news that the league is insisting that testing for human growth hormone be part of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Alex Marvez of FoxSPorts.com spoke with NFL vice president and general counsel Adolpho Birch, who oversees the league's drug-testing program. Birch said that the league feels testing for HGH is a "necessary" component of a new CBA.

"We want it. We think it's necessary. We're going to ensure that it's done," Birch said. "That's something very important to us and the integrity of our game. We believe some of the basis for going slowly on it before has been addressed. At this point, it's proper for it to be an active part of our program."

According to Birch, the NFL had discussed the matter with NFLPA representatives before labor talks ended on March 11.

An NFLPA source did not confirm or deny that testing-related discussions had taken place, telling FoxSports.com that an agreement for HGH testing "would have to be part of settlement discussions with the class," referring to the attorneys representing 10 NFL players in an antitrust lawsuit against the league.

The NFLPA decertified as a union hours before the previous CBA expired in anticipation of an NFL lockout.

Under the now-expired CBA, human growth hormone is banned but not tested for in the NFL. Part of the reason is that HGH can only be detected through blood testing. The late NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw, writes Marvez, resisted blood testing for the players he represented - in part, he said, because of a fear of needles.

"We've got a lot of big, tough guys, but even they don't like to be pricked on the finger to give blood," Upshaw said.

Currently, there is no urine test that can reliably detect HGH; the substance is thought to help accelerate healing, increase muscle mass and lower body fat.

Patriots fans will remember that safety Rodney Harrison was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season after admitting to purchasing HGH; Harrison told the media that he took the drug to accelerate the healing process from injuries he sustained while playing football and never to gain a competitive edge.

The International Olympic Committee began blood testing in the 2004 Summer Olympics, and currently it is tested for at baseball minor league levels but not the Major League.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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