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Latest News - December 2012

December 12, 2012
NFL players union is trying to back out of deal to test players for HGH claims U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings
Source: New York Daily News
By: Michael O'Keeffe

The congressman who confronted Roger Clemens in 2008 and Mark McGwire in 2005 about performance-enhancing drugs is now accusing the NFL Players Association of trying to back out of an agreement to test players for human growth hormone.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ripped the football union during a hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

“There is no serious dispute in the scientific community that the test to detect HGH abuse is effective,” he said. “This test — which has been in place for the past decade — is actually designed to be conservative in order to avoid false positives.

“To me, it seems obvious that the Players Association is simply running out the clock,” he added. “Although they agreed to HGH testing, they are now trying to back out of the contract.”

Lawmakers, angry that nearly two seasons have passed and the testing program is still stalled, called the hearing to examine the validity of the science behind the testing.

The NFL and its union agreed in principle to screen players’ blood for growth hormone in the collective-bargaining agreement both sides signed in August of 2011, after the league’s five-month lockout.

The union almost immediately expressed concerns about the reliability of the test. Critics have questioned its value because drug screeners have only a brief window — 24 to 48 hours — to detect HGH after it has been injected.

Larry Bowers, the chief science officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and an ardent proponent of HGH testing, seemed to inadvertently emphasize that point with information he submitted to the committee before the hearing. According to World Anti-Doping Agency records, Bowers said, almost 13,000 HGH tests have been administered since limited testing began in 2004 and worldwide testing began in 2008. Only 12 athletes have tested positive during that period, he said.

The union also has concerns about the appeals process, and the league and the Players Association still have not decided who would administer the tests. Wednesday’s hearing did not seem to change the union’s position.

“Along with testing and having a clean game, we also want to set the example of what fair due process is like,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said.

Representatives from the NFL and the Players Association were not asked to appear before lawmakers.

Bowers said in written testimony submitted to the committee that there is a “broad consensus” that the test is reliable.

“I would like to point out that the only people who are still questioning the methodology and validity of the . . . test are lawyers, not scientists,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Players Association filed a grievance against the NFL’s clubs and management council that seeks to bar team doctors from requiring players to sign waivers before they are prescribed the painkiller Toradol.

The Players Association said if doctors believe a player would be put at risk if administered Toradol, they should refuse to provide the painkiller rather than have the player waive liability.

Cummings made headlines during a 2005 congressional hearing on baseball and steroids, when he asked McGwire, who refused to answer questions about steroid use, if he was invoking the Fifth Amendment.

“I’m not here to discuss the past,” the Cardinals slugger famously told Cummings.

Cummings also had a pointed exchange with Clemens during the 2008 hearing on the Mitchell Report. “It is hard to believe you, sir,” Cummings told Clemens after the former Yankee pitcher said he had never used performance-enhancing drugs



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