NEW YORK -- 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.
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.
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.
The union’s Atallah said players have been asked to vote twice on whether to allow Goodell "to keep his appeal authority for violations of law, and two times the players have said, ‘No."’
"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."