NEW YORK (AP) - The man who oversees the NFL’s drug program says the players’ union has “buyer’s remorse” about HGH testing.
A union official says “the only thing” the league cares about “is power.”
Ah, just another day in the squabbling between the NFL and players over how to put in place blood testing for human growth hormone. The latest public back-and-forth Thursday _ featuring NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch and NFL Players Association assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah _ comes exactly two weeks before the first game of the 2013 regular season.
Two full seasons already have come and gone since the NFL collective bargaining agreement signed in August 2011 paved the way for the league to check players for HGH.
HGH is a banned performance-enhancing drug that is hard to detect and has been linked to health problems such as diabetes, cardiac dysfunction and arthritis.
“There is a chance it won’t happen this season,” the NFL’s Birch told The Associated Press. “I will also say there is a chance it will. I strongly hope that it does. I would have said the same thing last year. I would have said the same thing in October 2011.”
The league says the main sticking point right now is whether Commissioner Roger Goodell _ or someone he designates _ will continue to hear appeals for violations other than a positive test. The NFL wants to keep that part of the drug policy in place, while the union would prefer a panel of arbitrators to hear appeals that involve breaking a law or the demonstrated use of a performance-enhancer without a positive test.
“If their interest is in advancing the interests of players who play clean, and reassuring the public we have competitive integrity, and restoring public confidence … we can get this done,” Birch said. “If their interest is worrying about people who have broken the law, and how to protect them, then we’ve got more of a problem.”
Birch pointed to other concessions he said the NFL has made during negotiations over HGH testing, including dropping its desire to increase suspensions for a second offense from eight games to 10 games.
“I don’t expect the players’ position to change on that,” Atallah said in a telephone interview. “None of this stuff can move forward, none of the policy can change, without a vote. That’s how our constitution works. (NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith) can’t unilaterally agree to anything without taking it to a vote.”
On Thursday, the NFL issued a statement from Birch in which he said “it is time for the NFLPA to stop the delay tactics.” He called the desire to change the appeals process “simply a case of buyer’s remorse, and an effort to renegotiate part of a long-term agreement that they have now decided they don’t like.”
A little more than an hour later, Atallah responded via his Twitter account, linking to a page on the NFLPA website that contained his retort: “The only case of buyer’s remorse is the attached letter that the NFL agreed to weeks ago. Our signature is on it. Sign it, like you agreed to, and we start drawing blood from players immediately. Your refusal to sign it confirms that the only thing you care about is power.”
Posted below his statement was what Atallah said was the signature page _ with Smith’s handwriting, but not Goodell’s _ from the sides’ agreement on how to carry out a population study. That would entail drawing blood from every player at training camp in 2013 in order to determine what level of HGH would constitute a failed test.
Team rosters must be reduced to the regular-season count of 53 by Aug. 31.
“The sooner they sign the population study letter, the sooner we can move forward,” Atallah told the AP. “But time is running out.”
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
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