Democrats seek hearing on HGH tests
WASHINGTON -- Three Democratic congressmen are urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the impasse between the NFL and players union on testing for human growth hormone.
Committee hearings will allow us to learn about these issues, hearing from top scientists about the validity of HGH testing and from the NFL and the NFLPA about the extent of HGH use in the league and their plans for testing to eliminate such use.” -- Excerpt from Democrats' letter
California Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the committee, and two others made the request in a letter Tuesday to chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican.
The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as part of their new collective bargaining agreement reached in late July -- but only if the union agreed to the methods. The union has delayed implementing the test, asking for more scientific data to prove it is reliable.
NFLPA sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the union would welcome hearings because it believes it may hasten its unfulfilled efforts to get data it is seeking from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
"This delay is a cause for concern," wrote Waxman, along with G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Bobby Rush of Illinois, both of whom chair subcommittees on the panel.
The lawmakers cited a recent letter to the union and NFL from nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world stating the current test is scientifically reliable; and noted that the test has been used in the Olympics.
"There appear to be few questions about the validity of the HGH test," the Democrats wrote.
They also noted that CBS football analyst Boomer Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, said that the union is "backing off because they have players guilty of using this substance," and said that many believe at least 20 percent of players are using it.
"We hope that this is not the case," the congressmen wrote. "Committee hearings will allow us to learn about these issues, hearing from top scientists about the validity of HGH testing and from the NFL and the NFLPA about the extent of HGH use in the league and their plans for testing to eliminate such use."
In an email to The Associated Press, union head DeMaurice Smith said that players' health and the safety and integrity of the game go hand-in-hand.
"I applaud the members in their request for a hearing and look forward to fully discussing all of these issues as soon as possible," he said. "We are sending letters to the teams immediately in order to assist Congress in its fact finding mission."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league appreciated the lawmakers' commitment to the issue, "but there should be no need for this hearing if the union would simply live up to its agreements."
A spokesman for Upton's committee, Sean Bonyun, said lawmakers on the committee are in bipartisan agreement that "it is well past time for the NFL and Players Union to live up to their HGH testing agreement."
"Each day that goes by without rigorous HGH testing tarnishes the image of the NFL and sends the wrong message to the nation's youth," Bonyun said.
Earlier this month, the chairman and ranking member of another panel, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, emerged from a meeting with the NFL and players union and announced a deal to begin collecting blood for testing. But the union demurred, and last week, told the NFL to hold off collecting the blood.
The union is seeking data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test, so it can compare that data with a population study on football players. The union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels than those of other athletes.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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