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Four doctors in Congress push NFL, NFLPA on HGH


The effort by Congress to compel the NFL and the NFLPA to follow through on their agreement to conduct HGH testing has petered out in recent weeks. At a time when both sides have reason to be concerned about Congress opting to move aggressively regarding the inability of the parties to turn their agreement to conduct HGH testing into actual HGH testing, the latest effort from Capitol Hill looks more like window dressing than meaningful action.

Earlier this week, four doctors who serve in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith urging the adoption of HGH testing. The letter, signed by Dr. David “Phil” Roe (R-Tenn.), Dr. John Fleming (R-La.), Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), Dr. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), points out the risks and side effects of HGH (cancer, diabetes, hypertenson, harm to reproductive health, thyroid problems, and abnormal growth of bone and connective tissue). The doctors also explain that HGH is normally prescribed only for patients in the late stages of AIDS, for children with growth hormone deficiency, and for treatment of certain types of pituitary tumors.

And then there’s the fact that HGH possession and use without a prescription is illegal.

But there’s no teeth to the letter or any of the other efforts to date from Congress. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reportedly intends at some point to conduct public hearings and/or private efforts to gather information that could result in players being placed under oath about what they know about HGH us and how they or others get HGH, absent clear progress toward HGH testing. As the offseason approaches, however, the likelihood of the NFL and the union working together to resolve the situation will increase. Some believe that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has been trying to delay the issue until after his re-election in March 2012, given that a significant number of players are opposed to HGH testing of any kind.

Regardless, the new CBA clearly states that HGH testing will occur. The only question is how it will happen. To date, the NFLPA has refused to proceed with the procedure used by the World Anti-Doping Agency. (Though the NFLPA has not suggested a test other than the WADA procedure, the NFLPA last month suggested a protocol premised on the WADA test.) Congress has accused the NFLPA of dragging its feet, but the NFL likewise has failed to enforce the agreement via any of the available legal remedies for forcing a party to honor its written commitments.

Thus, the blame on this one cuts both ways. The NFLPA has failed to honor its agreement, and the NFL has opted to merely sit back and wait for someone else to pressure the NFLPA to live up to its word. If the NFL were genuinely serious about eradicating HGH from the game, the NFL would have pursued arbitration and/or litigation aimed at forcing the issue.

And if Congress were genuinely serious about it, they would be doing more than sending letters.