Blood tests for human growth hormone (HGH) could be coming to the NBA as early as next season. The league and the National Basketball Players Association are "close to an agreement" to implement testing for HGH, and the procedures could be in place for the testing to begin in the 2013-14 season, according to a report by Henry Abbott of ESPN.
HGH is a banned substance in most sports, and it is prohibited under the terms of NBA's collective bargaining agreement, but players' unions have previously resisted implementing blood tests to detect HGH on the grounds that such testing is unreliable and overly invasive. That stance has apparently changed since Major League Baseball reached an agreement with its players' union to conduct random, unannounced, in-season blood testing for HGH. The NFL has since made strides towards HGH testing as well. The NBA set up a committee to build an HGH testing policy in 2011, but little progess has been made until now.
As noted by Abbott, NBA players are currently subject to six urine tests per year, but no blood tests. They do face blood tests if they choose to compete in Olympic competition, so many players have already submitted to a similar process. HGH is difficult to detect because it leaves the bloodstream quickly, and users can often avoid detection if they know a test is coming. That's why random, unannounced testing is such an important element to the process.
Back in February, commissioner David Stern addressed the possibility of HGH testing coming to the league soon:
"Our players have, as a group, said we want to be demonstrably free of drugs as much as any group of athletes in the world," Stern said, "and I think they've kept that pledge."
"If they get through what I think they're going to get through and have full-fledged testing, based upon our overall dialogue with the union, we'll be in a good place to have that as well for next season."
The deal isn't done, but it's good to know that the NBA is making progress along with the othe major sports leagues in the United States.