Before Monday, Terry Newton was a rugby player, famous only in Great Britain. But when it was announced that he had tested positive for HGH , he instantly became famous around the world.
Newton, who was immediately suspended for two years, is the first athlete to ever test positive for HGH by a national sporting anti-doping agency. And as expected, the shockwaves from his positive test has had a ripple effect here in America.
Yesterday, commissioner Bud Selig announced that MLB plans to start testing in the minor leagues as soon as possible. He also said that he will make every attempt to get the Player's Association to allow testing for the majors as well.
The NBA has surprisingly remained mum on this issue.
But what about the NFL?
In regards to testing for drugs, the NFL and MLB have a convoluted history.
The NFL has been testing for steroids for over 20 years.
MLB was literally dragged (kicking and screaming) into a comprehensive and effective steroid-testing program.
The NFL has been proactive on the drug issue, never missing a chance to spread their anti-drug gospel to lawmakers and the media.
In regards to the drug issue, MLB has been the very definition of the word reactive .
So, in the midst of this truly groundbreaking case of legitimate HGH testing, surely the NFL is not going to drop the ball?
Greg Aiello, the senior vice president of public relations for the NFL, said this on Wednesday:
"Our position is that HGH testing has advanced to the point where we are taking steps to incorporate it into our program. We have proposed it to the union."
Okay! This is what I'm talking about! The NFL is always on the forefront, like meteorologists they jump ahead of the storm!
Now, let's see what the union, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) has to say. Surely, they're on the same side.
George Atallah is the NFLPA's assistant executive director of external affairs:
"At this point, there no reason to believe that blood-testing for NFL players will or should be implemented. We should instead focus on preserving the drug-testing policy we have in place."
Sorry George. Wrong answer. Try again.
For those that don't know, the drug-testing policy that is currently in place involves peeing in a cup. That's what the union wants to preserve. But that's not an effective way to test for HGH.
In 2005, Charlotte Observer reporter Charles Chandler broke the story of how three of the five starting linemen of the Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers repeatedly used steroids. The fallout from that (and from this 60 Minutes piece ) forced the NFL and the players union to change their steroid testing policy (which had routinely been praised as the best in sports).
So far so good.
But players were still getting popped (and suspended) for "suspicious behavior" (Kevin and Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings, Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers, and Charles Grant, Will Smith, and Deuce McAllister of the New Orleans Saints).
The situation involving the players from the Saints and the Vikings presents an interesting case study. Those guys were busted using StarCaps, a weight loss supplement which contained the diuretic Bumetanide which makes you pee a lot. As it rids your body of excess water, it dilutes the contents of your urine which makes it a perfect masking agent for steroids.
I'm not saying those guys took steroids. I'm merely pointing out how easy it is to trick the system if testing involves the act of peeing in a cup.
To further prove my point, just for fun, if you happen to pass former running back Onterrio Smith or former respectable actor Tom Sizemore on the street, ask them about "the Whizzinator?"
Oh. And be prepared to run...
My point is, if you're the NFL, you need to make sure you're doing everything you can to protect the image of the league. I love ripping the league as much as possible, but they're right here and the NFLPA would be wise to play along.
I just love the NFLPA's stance regarding HGH. Publicly they agree that it should be banned. And they're okay with testing for it, just as long as its a urine test (wink, wink).
In fact I can imagine their conversations with the NFL going a little like this:
NFLPA: "We think that HGH is a disgrace to the game of football. We strongly support any and all efforts to eradicate this drug."
NFL: "Great! We're so glad you feel that way. So when should we start blood-testing the players for HGH?"
NFLPA: "BLOOD-TESTING? HELL NAW WE AIN'T BLOOD TESTING! ARE YOU CRAZY?"
Back in 2009, Jon Jansen of the Washington Redskins told HBO Real Sports that 15-20 percent of the league was using HGH. During that same Real Sports segment, former defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said he thought the number was as high as 30 percent.
This past December, Tampa Bay running back Earnest Graham agreed with Stubblefield, saying he thought one-in-three players were using HGH. During an interview with WQYK-AM, Graham had this to say:
"You know, I would assume that a lot of guys have access to it and are using it. I wouldn't doubt it, man, with what's at stake. Especially in this game, not having guaranteed contracts you know, with so much riding on your performance, a game that tears your body down like that.
"I would assume that a lot of people are making that decision to use HGH. Especially if there's not a test for it. Because at some point you feel like you're not cheating, you're not doing anything wrong."
So how would the players feel about being tested?
Washington Redskin Albert Haynesworth defiantly told USAToday: "I honestly don't care if they test for HGH. It doesn't bother me. I don't do HGH."
I'm a Redskins fan, so I can say with certainty that Albert Haynesworth does not use HGH to recover after a tough football game.
He doesn't use HGH. He uses KFC.
And what will happen if someone gets caught?
I thought Victor Conte, the man behind the infamous BALCO, made a great point the other day.
"This guy Terry Newton just said, ok, you caught me. Our players will never do that."
He's right. Even after a positive test, you still have to drag our pro athletes kicking and screaming into a court of law.
But so what? This is what needs to happen. We need to stop turning a blind eye to athletes who use performance enhancing drugs to get ahead. It took forever for Bud Selig to get it through his thick head. And look how it cost his sport.
I'm not a sanctimonious gasbag who constantly cries about the lack of morality in sports (hellooooooo Bill Plascke), but performance-enhancing drugs in sports are a soft spot for me. Either legalize them (which will never happen and I don't think it should) or do everything you can to discourage the use of them.
Because if 50 percent of the league is using PEDs and 50 percent is not, then the playing field is not level, and we're left with rumors and innuendo (like the suspicions involving Richard Rydze, the doctor whose ties with the Pittsburgh Steelers were cut after he was identified as an online buyer of over a million dollars of HGH).
The NFLPA's stance on this is ridiculous.
In the first Naked Gun movie, there's a car chase that ends when the bad guy crashes his car into a store that sells fireworks. The ensuing crash causes a ridiculous fireworks display that attracts the attention of people from the neighborhood. Our bumbling hero, Lieutenant Frank Drebin, tries to clear the scene by opening his wallet, showing his police badge, and saying, "Please people! Go home! There's nothing to see here!"
This scene is hilarious because, as he was talking, the biggest fireworks display that you ever seen in your life was going on right behind him.
Of course there was something to see!
Well the NFLPA is like Frank Drebin. They're trying to convince us that everything is cool. We don't need no stinking blood-tests for HGH because "there's nothing to see. Everybody move along."
Frank Drebin had an excuse. He was a lovable, yet utterly clueless goofball.
But the NFLPA? You guys aren't clueless goofballs. You guys are very smart and shrewd people. So the question must be asked:
"What is it exactly that you don't want us to find out?"