With only a week to go before the NFL season opens, the league may not get the approval of the players to begin testing for human growth hormone (HGH). Players continue to differ with the league about how to implement a testing procedure, even after conferring last week with officials from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Player representatives for the league's 32 teams were scheduled to have a conference call Wednesday, during which HGH testing was to be discussed. But the call was canceled because of logistical issues related to the playing of preseason games Thursday night. But an NFL official told Newsday Wednesday in a strongly worded message that the players were setting a poor example by not agreeing to testing procedures.
"If you want to be a leader on player health and safety and set the right example for young athletes, it's time to stop the delay and get moving with this program," NFL senior vice president of public relations Greg Aiello said. "The last thing we should be doing is making it easy for players to inject themselves with illegal, unregulated, potentially dangerous substances."
George Atallah, a spokesman for the NFL Players Association, declined to comment about the HGH testing program but confirmed that the conference call had been canceled. It is uncertain whether the call will be rescheduled.
But the longer the delay continues, the less likely a testing program will be in place by the time the regular season begins.
The league and players had reached general agreement on an HGH testing program, but differences arose about when the testing would start. Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president of law and labor and the director of the league's drug-testing programs, said in a recent interview with Newsday that the league's understanding was that the program would begin this season.
"The parties have committed to getting the program up and running by the start of the season and I have every expectation that we'll do that," Birch said.
Birch said it was important to have a testing program to make sure players steer clear of performance-enhancing drugs.