Remember earlier this year when Bengals safety Roy Williams admitted to using a product containing HGH? If not, that’s ok since no one really seemed to care all that much when it happened. The general public response to NFL players admitting to PED use still seems to be more of a shrug or feigned shock than honest outrage.
But while the back-and-forth over the new CBA drags on, the NFL has decided to take a stand on HGH testing, with NFL vice president and general counsel Adolpho Birch (formerly head of Gryffindor house at Hogwarts) declaring:
"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."
Proposed testing for HGH has been in negotiations for some time now. Once the Olympics began testing in 2004 many felt the NFL would be the next to implement a policy, but the obstacles thus far have been a debate over the invasive nature of the testing method and the reliability of their results. Under the last CBA, players were subject to random urine testing by independent Drug Program Agents, but currently HGH use can only be identified through a blood test. The NFLPA, particularly under the guidance of former executive director Gene Upshaw, has adamantly rejected a blood testing procedure on the grounds of ouchy:
"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."
But more to the point, the efficacy of HGH blood testing has come under heavy scrutiny, seeing as no Olympic athlete has tested positive since the policy was adopted (ahem, Germany).
While the haggling about a proper testing procedure carries on, the use of HGH among NFL players is in little doubt.
During a 2009 interview with Tampa radio station WQYK-AM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham said he believed about 30 percent of all NFL players use HGH.
"I’d say a lot of NFL players are doing it," Graham said. "Any sport (where) guys come across injuries and need to get back fast and come back stronger than they were before, I wouldn’t be shocked."
Former NFL safety Matt Bowen offers a similar take:
Sure, there are performance-enhancing drugs in pro sports, and the NFL isn’t immune to that. I can honestly say I never physically saw HGH during my career (and it wasn’t a topic of discussion in the locker room), but I would be flat out lying if I didn’t admit that it existed.
The NFL has previously maneuvered to have HGH testing enforced, most recently in January, but the request was denied by current NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith who claimed that it would have to be a part of the CBA.That the league is now insisting on a policy may be consistent with that demand and a genuine effort to protect the players and the reputation of the game, but the timing also raises suspicions that the proposal is simply a bargaining strategy by the NFL, demanding from players something they certainly won't consent to in order to gain leverage in negotiations.