NFL Considers Involving World Anti-Doping Agency in Drug Testing

The future of the NFL is currently waiting on the decision of the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether to keep the lockout in place or force the league to open for business despite having no new collective bargaining agreement. It's presumed that is the NFL is compelled to begin operations that all the rules and policies of the 2010 season would remain in place. Or maybe not. 

While it waits for a ruling, the league isn't sitting on its gold-ringed, cash-filled hands. Rather than being caught in a reactionary position if the court sides with the players and lifts the stay on the lockout, the league appears to be developing some potential changes to the 2010 rules, one of them being its drug testing procedures. The New York Times is reporting, via the ubiquitous unidentified source, that instead of falling back on old policies, the league may bring in the World Anti-Doping Agency to oversee drug testing among the players.

''Our goal has at all times been the same - to operate under a negotiated set of procedures that are agreed to by the clubs and the NFLPA,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press in an email, responding to the Times report. ''The current litigation has created a significant amount of uncertainty and we are therefore considering a wide range of alternatives depending on developments.''

If the WADA gets involved not only will penalties for the use of a banned substance use get more severe, it most certainly means HGH testing is on its way.

The use of HGH in the NFL has gained attention over the last few years. Bengals safety Roy Williams admitted to the use of it, and former wide receivers coach Hugh Jackson, now with the Oakland Raiders, has been linked to the substance. Since CBA negotiations began breaking down earlier this year, the league started arguing more stridently for an HGH testing procedure to be a part of any new agreement, with NFL vice president and general counsel Adolpho Birch saying:

"We want it. We think it's necessary. We're going to ensure that it's done […] 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."

But the NFLPA has always pushed back against the institution of such a policy on the grounds that the tests are invasive and inaccurate. Former NFLPA president Gene Upshaw was the most vocal opponent of a mandatory HGH test for players

"Until a test is developed for HGH, there’s really not an awful lot to talk about. When that test is developed, we really believe it should be a urine test. No one is interested in a blood test. We've got a lot of big tough guys, but even they don’t like to be pricked on the finger to give blood."

Back in April, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to prove a point about the viability of the testing method and the league's concern for player health by submitting to an HGH test, but some have speculated that the league's push for an HGH test is less altruistic than it may appear. While it's clearly the shape of things to come, an HGH test may be a negotiating tactic by the league to gain leverage over the players. However, if the WADA gets involved, the discussion may be at an end...or maybe just the beginning of another huge mess.

The WADA is an independent organization initially funded and primarily created by the International Olympic Committee in 1999. It's got, like, principles and everything (i.e., upholding the World Anti-Doping Code). But those rigorous principles might interfere with the game a bit too much. Tim Keown over at ESPN thinks it'd be a disaster.

A two-year suspension for a positive A and B sample? That's the WADA way. You think cycling is a mess? Multiply the carnival-like drama that surrounds cycling by about a million and you've got a pretty good idea of a WADA/NFL marriage.

In the end, this might just be another ruse by the league, who may not want the kind of scrutiny the WADA brings. But heck, I'm all for the threat if it jumpstarts any positive discussions between the players and the league.

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