In an email obtained by USA Today Friday, the NFL Players Association warned that the 2014 season may be played with no testing for human growth hormone.
The league and the players agreed to HGH testing in the new CBA, ratified in 2011, but have not been able to resolve various issues surrounding the testing, and the program has not been implemented.
The primary point of contention is commissioner Roger Goodell's authority over appeals that are not directly related to positive drug tests -- for instance, legal violations involving banned supplements. The league has agreed to some of the union's requests, including agreeing to an HGH population study, but the NFL has held that commissioner authority over appeals is non-negotiable.
The union blames the league's stance on the matter for the lack of testing, and in the email said the league is "on the verge" of playing another season without the previously-agreed to drug testing.
Last July, the league and the union nearly reached an agreement to begin testing for HGH. The sides agreed on several issues related to the testing, including having third-party administrators to hear appeals for positive tests, random testing of 40 players a week, and suspension lengths for positive tests. But the two sides remain hung up on commissioner authority over test appeals.
The NFLPA's email in full:
Last year, the NFL and the Players agreed to a process to scientifically evaluate all players in training camp to determine the normal/natural level of hGH for Players, and we agreed on the researchers who would conduct the population study. The Players and the NFL also agreed that after scientific determination of the normal level of hGH for Players (the "decision limit"), we would begin in-season and league wide testing for hGH. In short, the Players and NFL have agreed to hGH testing, including the storage, analysis, timing, and ultimate destruction of blood tests.
However, we have not yet implemented hGH testing because, after the NFL agreed to the detailed terms for the population study (those terms are reflected in the linked letter agreement), the NFL has refused to sign it without complete agreement on new drug policies. Thus, we are on the verge of another year without a safer and cleaner game because the NFL refuses to commit to fair due process for players who choose to appeal NFL discipline for alleged drug policies violations.
Players deserve a fair system, similar to Major League Baseball's, which includes neutral arbitration for all alleged offenses of our drug policies. Currently, the NFL has agreed to neutral arbitration for appeals based on an alleged any positive drug test, but the Commissioner wants to act as the arbitrator in the cases where a violation of the policies is not based on a positive tests (e.g., a violation of law involving banned substances or where NFL believes there is material evidence of a violation of law involving banned substances.) Our union is committed to a fair, clean and safe game, but we are also committed to protecting your rights.
We continue to negotiate with the NFL."
- Alex Hampl