WASHINGTON - The NFL and the players union are set to meet with leaders of a House committee to discuss testing for human growth hormone, which has hit a snag despite an agreement in the latest collective bargaining agreement to begin testing players.
That agreement was contingent on the union's agreeing to the testing methods, but the union has asked for more scientific data to prove the test is reliable.
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, and the top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, planned to attend Friday's meeting, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Baltimore Ravens cornerback and team representative Domonique Foxworth, and Travis Tygart, who heads the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Other representatives from the league, the union and the agency also were to participate.
"We look forward to cooperating with the committee and working with the NFLPA to start HGH testing in the NFL as soon as possible," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday.
The union is seeking data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test, so it can compare that data with a population study on football players. The union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels than those of other athletes. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which sanctions the test, has declined to produce more information, saying plenty of information about the test is available publicly.
Union spokesman George Atallah said he hoped Tygart's agency would be more forthcoming at Friday's meeting than the World Anti-Doping Agency has been.
Issa and Cummings told the league and the union last month that the elimination of performance-enhancing drugs from the sport "protects the integrity of the league as well as player health and safety. Most importantly, such testing sends a message to young athletes that performance-enhancing drugs of all kinds are not tolerated at the sport's highest level."
The union has questioned the safety and reliability of the test. But nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world signed a letter sent to the union and NFL stating the current test is safe, scientifically reliable and appropriate for use in professional sports leagues.
When the testing goes into effect is unclear.
"I don't know when there will finally be HGH testing," writes CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman. "I still think it begins next season but this meeting in Washington is the kind of move that can dramatically speed things up."
A separate group of anti-doping scientists and lab directors also endorsed the test in another letter.
The majority of those who signed the letters have some connection to WADA or its accredited labs. Officials with labs linked to WADA are typically discouraged from making statements that question the agency's tests or procedures.
Athletes are believed to choose HGH for a variety of benefits, whether real or only perceived including increasing speed and improving vision.