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Senator McCain urges NFL, NFLPA to break hGH stalemate


More than three years ago, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to implement HGH testing. Since then, however, they’ve failed to reach an actual agreement pursuant to which HGH testing would occur. Per multiple reports, the impasse continues regarding the question of whether violations arising from something other than a positive test will be resolved by Commissioner Roger Goodell or by an independent arbitrator.

At a time when neither side will blink, a prominent politician hopes to clunk their heads together.

“With the new [NFL] season set to kick off tomorrow night, I write to express profound disappointment that random testing for human growth hormone (hGH) has still not been implemented in the NFL despite all sides committing to it more than three years ago in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement,” Senator John McCain writes in a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. “This inexplicable failure should be embarrassing to both owners and players, as it erodes fans’ confidence in the integrity of a great American sport, and sends a dangerous message to young athletes that there are no consequences for hGH use by the NFL players they admire and seek to emulate.”

McCain’s letter points to a recent study regarding increased hGH use by teenagers within the past year.

“This study should serve as a wake-up call to the entire NFL community, that it must fulfill its responsibilities to set the standard for clean competition and serve as a positive, healthy example to young athletes across the country and the world,” McCain writes.

McCain wants to get the issue resolved, and to get there he wants to know precisely where the two sides currently are.

“In reply to this letter, please state your current position on hGH testing and your plans for working to reach agreement on implementation this year,” McCain said. “Following through on your commitment will be part of the legacy you leave this great game.”

McCain is right. At a time when the two sides have found a middle ground on the topic of whether the blackout rule should continue, they should be able to forge a consensus on the far more important topic of hGH testing. The league consistently has explained privately that it’s not interested in forcing the issue, since the players ultimately must be willing to submit to blood testing for hGH. The union consistently has declined to agree to the terms the NFL has proposed.

If the only remaining issue relates to the appeal of violations arising from positive tests, the NFL should call what may be a bluff by the union and agree to proceed. Even then, testing wouldn’t commence until a population study determined the existing baseline hGH levels in professional football players has concluded.

Still, until an agreement is reached, the population study can’t start. Until that happens, some will wonder whether both sides hope to delay the process long enough to give the players a full and fair opportunity to quit using hGH -- and possibly to find something else for which the NFL doesn’t currently test.