- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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NEW YORK -- New NFLPA president Eric Winston said the NFL's plan for HGH testing is on hold because players don't agree with the league's stipulation that commissioner Roger Goodell be the final arbiter in particular disputes around the testing process or the results.
"It's there when [Goodell] wants to sign it," Winston said. "I kind of laugh because it keeps coming up. If he wants HGH testing as bad as he wants to retain his power, then we would have had HGH testing last year. At the end of the day, that's what this is all about: He wants to hold all the cards and he wants to be the judge, jury and executioner, and we're not going to go for an un-American system like that."
Winston made the comments during a meeting at a midtown hotel Wednesday, the day before the first round of the NFL draft.
League spokesman Greg Aiello responded to Winston's remarks Thursday in an email to ESPN.
"It is kind of funny because since 2011 the union has come up with one excuse after another to avoid implementing an agreement to test for HGH," Aiello wrote. "First, it was the testing method; then it was the population study; now it's commissioner authority. Our commitment to testing is clear. The same cannot be said of the union."
The issue has been a lingering point of contention for both sides since a new collective bargaining agreement was passed in 2011, and it arose again this week when Goodell renewed his call for the union to sign an HGH agreement.
"The world has accepted the science," Goodell said in an interview with NFL Network. "There's global understanding of that. And the union needs to sign off on that. It's time to sign off on what we agreed to. They have raised issues. We have addressed all those issues. They're now raising, from time to time, issues that are completely unrelated to HGH testing."
It seems that the NFL and the union don't even agree on the reason they are disagreeing.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said every term other than arbitration method has been agreed upon.
"The process by which we would have HGH testing is agreed to," Smith said. "The population study is agreed to, the manner in which blood would be drawn is agreed to. The number of tests is agreed to. The way in which we determine a violation for taking HGH is agreed to. And it's joint; it's all been agreed to.
"The only thing that has not been agreed to is there is neutral arbitration for every aspect of the drug policy except in cases where there is a violation of law or where there is an evidence-based violation of the drug policy that didn't result in a positive test."
Smith cited the suspension of the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez as an example, noting that baseball used a neutral arbiter in its review process.
"We've agreed to everything, except the commissioner wants to be the hearing officer in those final two cases," Smith said. "That's the only thing that's held this up."
Winston said it's been the issue he has been asked about most since he assumed the role of NFLPA president in March, and he said that players won't accept another disciplinary procedure in which Goodell wields all the power.
"To me, it's a system that doesn't work," Winston said. "It showed in the bounty case, and it showed in the StarCaps case.
"[Testing is] not something the players don't want, and when you get into taking blood, there needs to be a neutral arbitrator to deal with all those issues."
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