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Thursday, August 15, 2013
Source: HGH testing still on hold

ESPN.com news services

Despite agreement on a number of issues related to HGH testing in the NFL, a league source told ESPN that testing will not begin until the NFL Players Association agrees that commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to hear appeals on violations of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy except those involving positive tests.

Goodell currently hears appeals filed on violations of the league's PED program, such as violations of law or demonstrated use of PEDs without a positive drug test. Examples of those kinds of cases include baseball's recent Biogenesis case and the four-game suspension in 2007 of then-Patriots safety Rodney Harrison after he admitted he had obtained HGH.

Harrison said he did not use the HGH, but he also did not appeal his suspension. If Harrison had appealed, the case would have been heard by Goodell.

All appeals involving positive PED tests currently are heard by a third-party arbitrator. The source said the union wants all appeals to be heard by a third-party arbitrator and not Goodell.

"The final hurdle appears to be the union's opposition to maintaining the commissioner's current authority to hear appeals for violations other than a positive test," the source said. "These changes would be contrary to the terms of the CBA and the operation of the drug and steroid program over the past 25 years. We do not believe it is appropriate further to limit the commissioner's disciplinary authority."

The source said the NFL, after agreeing to HGH testing in the first place, wants a comprehensive policy in place before the testing begins this season. Among the areas of HGH testing the sides have agreed on:

• A so-called population study that will test all players in the preseason to determine how many players are using the substance and establish levels at which a player's test will be considered positive. Contrary to reports, the source said there is no agreement on including retired players in that study.

• Random blood testing for HGH to begin the first week of the regular season. Each week, 40 players would be selected for random testing. That testing would continue in the postseason and throughout the year.

• After the population study determines how many players are using HGH, players who test positive will be placed on "reasonable cause" testing and move to Stage 2 of discipline, meaning if they test positive again, they will be suspended eight games without pay. Once random testing begins in the regular season, players testing positive for HGH will be suspended without pay for four games. A second violation would bring an eight-game suspension, and a third positive test will result in a one-year suspension.

• Appeals filed by players who test positive for HGH will be heard by third parties with experience in drug-testing cases.

The source told ESPN the NFL has made a number of concessions to the NFLPA on the HGH agreement, including placing limits on discipline for repeat offenders and agreeing there would be no HGH testing on game days.

The league wants the union to agree that Goodell will hear the appeals related to HGH testing that don't involve positive tests.

"If the union is prepared to accept substantial compromises we have made to accommodate its various demands, we will have HGH testing in short order," the source said.