U.S. lawmakers said they doubt the leadership of the National Football League Players Association considers human growth hormone a problem and the organization’s “remarkable recalcitrance” has blocked progress toward testing for the drug.
In a letter sent today to union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said it would go directly to the association’s members to gauge their views on HGH use and testing.
The panel also asked for documents from the union, including its most recent drug-testing proposal, by Feb. 8.
“The players association’s resistance to implementing an HGH test has led us to question whether the NFLPA leaders actually believe that HGH is a problem in the sport,” read the letter, signed by committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, and the ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
The letter comes about two weeks after Major League Baseball and its players union agreed on random, in-season blood testing for HGH, a banned strength builder.
George Atallah, a spokesman for the NFLPA, said in a telephone interview that the union intends to cooperate with the panel.
“In the same way that members of Congress are representatives of their constituents, this union takes its direction from the players,” Atallah said. “If the committee decides to hold a hearing, we look forward to participating. The players have made all information on this topic available to the NFL and to the committee.”
HGH is considered a performance-enhancing drug because of its ability to grow muscle and aid recovery after training. It’s not detectable in urine, unlike anabolic steroids.
The NFL and its union agreed in the collective bargaining deal signed in 2011 to implement HGH testing.
Shortly after, the committee said in the letter, the union questioned the reliability of the existing HGH test. The letter said the National Basketball Association and its union have made progress toward an agreement on HGH testing.
“Despite being the first of the major professional sports leagues to agree to test for HGH, the NFL has now fallen far behind its counterparts in implementing the agreement,” Issa and Cummings said.
They cited the Green Bay Packers’ Jeff Saturday, a member of the union’s executive committee; the New York Jets’ Antonio Cromartie; and the Washington Redskins’ London Fletcher as players who have called for HGH testing.
“We intend to take a more-active role to determine whether the position you have taken -- that HGH is not a serious concern and that the test for HGH is unreliable -- is consistent with the beliefs of rank-and-file NFL players.”