On Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced that it would begin random, in-season tests of players for human growth hormone. The announcement was a significant step in the development of standards and tests for performance enhancing drugs in American professional sports.
It also intensifies the pressure on the NFL Players' Association to hammer out the protocols and move forward on an agreement to test for HGH. Theoretically, HGH testing was thought to be an already-agreed upon item, settled during negotiations of the 2011 CBA. But NFL players have gone through two seasons without being tested for HGH since that deal.
Fingers are most often pointed at the NFLPA for the two-season delay, as they have requested more study to prove the validity of the HGH testing used for Olympic sports, and now the MLB. The union and the league have not been able to agree on a scientist to conduct one more study to cement the validity of HGH testing -- the last hurdle which is causing the delay. The union reportedly wants a population study done to assess whether the current HGH tests are fit for NFL players.
HGH is detected through blood testing, and the announcement that MLB would conduct these tests in-season is a significant expansion of their PED testing program. Previously, the league and players had agreed to blood testing during spring training and the offseason. The random, in-season testing will be instituted for the start of the MLB's 2013 season in April.
Testing in the NFL was discussed in a public forum most recently during Congressional hearings in December. Congressmen Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings, who oversaw the hearings, were critical of the union for delaying a finalized agreement. After collecting testimony from the USADA stating that there had yet to be a "false positive" under the current test, Cummings alleged that the union was trying to "run out the clock" and back out of the deal. Issa added that it appeared the lawyers, and not the players, were getting in the way.
The NFLPA's George Atallah reiterated that the union was "absolutely not" trying renege on the agreement, but that final details just needed to be worked out. Beyond the final study to prove validity, it's likely that it will take time for both sides to agree to administration and collection protocols, as well as an appeals process. That could mean the NFL is headed for a third season within a 10-year CBA without blood testing for HGH.