NFL players ratified a 10-year collective bargaining agreement Thursday and included testing for human growth hormone, thus becoming the first professional sports league to have HGH testing of all players.
Players voted Thursday afternoon after final details of the agreement were hammered out by negotiators from both sides. The HGH testing program and how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will administer the league's personal-conduct policy were among the final sticking points.
"Blood testing for HGH is included in the agreement, and the goal is to begin testing for HGH the first week of the regular season," said Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations. "Over the next several weeks, we will discuss and develop with the union the specific arrangements for the testing procedures." If not, the league hopes to start the testing as soon as it can.
Aiello said there will be annual testing for all players and random tests throughout the year.
Major League Baseball implemented a random testing program for HGH last year, but only for minor-leaguers. Baseball's collective bargaining agreement with major-leaguers does not address HGH testing.
Once the deal was approved, all players became eligible to practice with their teams. Players who signed new contracts during the past week and those who had renegotiated their existing contracts were not allowed to practice until the CBA was approved.
The new deal kept Goodell's powers to mete out discipline similar to the old agreement. Some players have complained that Goodell wields too much authority in disciplining players, and they pushed for an arbitration process. But Goodell remained firm in his insistence that he be given wide latitude to deal with players' off-field behavior, and he was granted those powers in the new deal.
However, players now will be permitted to appeal fines for on-field incidents to two people approved by the league and the union. Previously, Goodell heard appeals.
Thursday's ratification vote officially ends a long battle between the players and owners. The NFL ended its 4 1/2-month lockout July 25, contingent on the players ratifying the agreement by 4 p.m. yesterday.
At Giants camp, player representative Kareem McKenzie said, "It was unanimously decided by all members of this team to go ahead and ratify the CBA.
"People want to go to work, plain and simple. Ratify it, go to work. Don't ratify it, you can't go to work. Plain and simple."
When asked if he is happy with all parts of the deal, McKenzie said, "Very satisfied. It was a deal that was equitable for all parties included."
With Tom Rock