NFL Lockout Is Over: Pro Football Blood Testing for HGH

Kirk MangoAnalyst IAugust 17, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 21: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media during the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt Hotel on March 21, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout in effect since March 12 the league is conducting it's annual owners meeting in New Orleans(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The recent article in the New York Times, N.F.L. Says Drug Testing Will Be Rigorous and Frequent, was somewhat refreshing. I use the term “refreshing” based on the title and its initial implications, and the term “somewhat” because of what is detailed in the article.

In a nutshell, the piece describes the new, more stringent drug-testing program, including blood testing for HGH, that is to be part of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players starting this fall. Details, according to the article, include possible unlimited testing during the season and up to six out-of-season tests.

However, doping experts remain skeptical, inferring that, until the league adopts a no-loophole type of testing program, its effectiveness in deterring the use of performance-enhancing substances would be less than stellar.

As the United States Anti-Doping Agency's chief executive officer, Travis Tygart, puts it, “What would be a Super Bowl win for clean athletes would be unlimited in-season and out-of-season no-notice testing, and anything less is not a clear Super Bowl victory.”

The true nature of the agreement and complete details of the drug testing to be done is not yet known, as discussions are still ongoing, a point made clear throughout the New York Times piece, and something that would seem to hold off doping experts’ full support.

Former WADA chairman Gary Wadler said, “If they want the support of the fans, there should be no speculation on what the policy is, and that policy should be made public.

“If you look at WADA’s anti-doping code, the details are incredible. It needs to be explicit. It needs to be transparent.”

Normally I am not one for absolutes, and I believe that there are situations that call for a more “gray area" type of approach. However, my take on this particular situation is simple.

Either the NFL wants to make a difference and truly “preserve the integrity of our game and the health of our athletes,” as stated by Adolpho Birch, NFL Senior V.P. for law and labor policy, or they don’t. There is no middle ground on something like this. Having any gray area with regard to performance-enhancing drug testing will simply perpetuate loopholes that users can exploit.

As for me, I sit firmly on the side of the doping experts quoted in this article, and only time will tell if the NFL is really serious about changing the current PED trend or not. Let’s hope they do, at least for the “integrity” of the game and the “health” of their players.