The National Football League wants a new collective bargaining agreement to include provisions allowing players to be tested for the use of human growth hormone.
Adolpho Birch, the league’s senior vice president of law and labor policy, said testing for the banned performance-enhancing substance is necessary to maintain the sport’s integrity, protect the health of players and prevent young athletes from mimicking the behavior of professionals who use prohibited drugs.
“On all three counts, it’s something we feel is critical to account for in our policy,” Birch said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It’s always been banned. It’s not like it’s legitimate now. Now that we have the ability to test for it, we think it’s important to do so.”
Birch said the NFL had discussed testing for human growth hormone, or HGH, which is already prohibited by the league, with the NFL Players Association before labor talks broke down March 11. The NFL locked out players after the union abandoned collective bargaining and players sued the league in federal court, accusing it of antitrust violations and wage fixing.
The NFL’s interest in testing for HGH was first reported by Foxsports.com. Olympic testing began in the summer of 2004 and Major League Baseball began testing minor league players last year.
Former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said testing for HGH is “the right thing to do.”
“Proper blood testing is the only way that you are going to be able to detect these PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs),” Bruschi said on ESPN’s “NFL Live” telecast. “You want to level the playing field.”
Birch said the problems with HGH go beyond football.
More Than Sports
“It’s not ultimately just a sports or athletics issue,” he said. “ We worry about the use by high school girls for body image issues, for example. Given our position and the impact we have, and the issues about competitive integrity, those things make it especially important to us.”
Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president for business ventures, said yesterday that the NFL has not yet calculated how much it has lost in revenue due to the league shutdown.
Grubman said the league’s long-term business partners, while “steadfast in support of the NFL,” are concerned about committing dollars to marketing or activating sponsorships during a labor dispute that may cancel games next season.
‘Really at Risk’
“They have marketing budgets they have to commit sooner or later and they can’t commit them twice,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “So they are nervous about it. They’ve got to make decisions. The TV companies are selling advertising in the upfront. That’s what, in the short term, is really at risk.”
Grubman said in January that the NFL might lose $120 million in ticket sales, sponsorship and media revenue if a deal isn’t reached by March, and $1 billion if it takes until September. Each week of missed games would mean a loss of $400 million, he said.
Grubman said yesterday that the league is working to update its projections.
“They’re more or less along the lines that we estimated,” he said. “We have to see what the clubs are doing. A lot of those projected losses through the beginning of the preseason were at the club level.”
Season-ticket renewals are doing better than league projections, he said.
“The results are pretty strong relative to what we expected,” he said. “We think it’s a sign that the fans, although they’re mad at everybody for not getting a deal, deep down they’re confident that we are going to get something done.”