The late NFL Players Association boss Gene Upshaw once dismissed the NFL’s desire to test players’ blood for human growth hormones as too invasive.
“We don’t want to have our fingers pricked,” Upshaw said.
But if the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson’s lockout injunction, the players might not have a choice. The league, preparing in case the three-judge appellate panel orders the owners to open the season under their own rules, may employ the World Anti-Doping Agency to test for HGH.
In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, the NFL would be allowed to unilaterally enforce its own drug policy. The owners have long wanted human growth testing as part of the CBA, only to be met with resistance because the only current test for HGH is a blood test. Steroids can be detected through a urine test.
The WADA oversees Olympic testing, which includes the HGH test. And its involvement with the NFL could theoretically start as early as this week if the appellate court chooses to overturn the temporary stay it granted April 28. A hearing on a permanent stay is scheduled for June 3, and a final decision is expected in July.
But actually starting HGH testing could take longer because of logistical issues and the threat of player lawsuits.
“I’m not sure how much you can move the ball forward under the circumstances,” said WADA’s banned substance list committee past chairman Gary Wadler, speaking to The New York Times. “I don’t think they‘re going to come up with a long-term drug protocol under the current context of negotiations.”
Meanwhile, the owners and players are awaiting another ruling that could force the sides back to the bargaining table. U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty will conduct a hearing in his Minnesota courtroom Thursday to determine damages for the $4 billion the owners received from television networks in violation of the since-expired CBA. The players could be awarded more than $1 billion, but even more important, some incredible leverage in further CBA negotiations.