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Friday October 14th, 2011

The NFL could begin testing its players for human growth hormone (HGH) within two weeks, commissioner Roger Goodell announced Friday.

The league and NFL Players Association met with a House committee in Washington, D.C., to discuss the specifics of HGH testing. The two sides had agreed, in principle, to put HGH testing in place as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Whenever the NFL officially begins its tests, it will be a landmark moment in professional sports -- baseball tests its minor-league players for HGH, but there is no system in place yet for the majors.

The NFL already has in place a relatively strict drug-testing policy, one that has led to the suspension of some high-profile names, like Brian Cushing and Shawne Merriman, for steroid use. The added HGH tests would continue to push the NFL to the front lines in American professional sports, regarding its anti-drug policies.

Part of the reason for that delay, and for the NFLPA's hesitancy to jump full-bore into the agreed-upon plan, is that questions continue to arise about the safety and accuracy of HGH testing.

Despite Goodell's claim that this would begin soon, the NFLPA repeatedly has expressed concerns over those issues.

The current HGH test, which the NFL is trying to implement, reportedly can only trace HGH in a person's system for 24 hours -- meaning beating the test might be very doable, especially since the NFL currently gives its players a day's notice before running drug tests.

Any baseball minor-leaguer who tests positive for HGH receives an automatic 50-game suspension. Cushing's steroids suspension, by comparison, was for four games -- a similar percentage of the overall season. Then-Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and then-Cowboys QB coach Wade Wilson were suspended four games each at the start of the 2007 season after admitting to taking HGH.

Prior to the 2010 season, Canadian doctor Anthony Galea was charged with the smuggling and unlawful distribution of HGH to athletes across several leagues, including the NFL. The Redskins' Santana Moss was linked to Galea but not suspended.

The NFLPA's discomfort with the current testing system initially made it look unlikely that the NFL would be able to implement the HGH tests before the start of the 2012 preseason, at the earliest. Friday's meeting in Washington, D.C., seems to have changed that timetable, though there's no guarantee that the window Goodell provided will remain accurate.

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