The NFL and NFLPA took the first steps Monday in ensuring that human growth hormone could become a banned substance as part of the league's testing policy. The biggest hurdle was cleared on Monday, as both sides agreed to a population study, which will test every NFL player's blood and have it evaluated by independent scientists to determine what the league-wide base level for HGH is in NFL athletes.
The NFL and NFLPA first announced a desire to move toward HGH testing in 2011, but the population study is the most important step since those initial conversations. Every player in the league will be required to submit a blood sample during training camp, according to a report by Sports Illustrated. It is this testing that will allow the league and union to better understand the chemical makeup of the league's athletes and to determine whether HGH abuse is widespread in the league.
This study will have no bearing on the upcoming season, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who reports that no retroactive suspensions are expected to be handed down as a result of the league-wide tests. There is also no current indication on how positive tests would be punished in the future, as the NFL and NFLPA have not yet agreed on regular testing following this initial study.
It remains to be seen how elevated HGH levels would be punished. If both sides agree to random testing it could mean HGH is rolled into the current procedure against performance enhancing drugs, but there are road blocks before that becomes the law of the land.
What makes HGH unlike other performance enhancing drugs is that it's naturally occurring in the human body, and regulated by the pituitary gland. HGH is considered a banned substance by the NCAA and International Olympic Committee (IOC), but remains spotty in the country's "big four" sports.
Random testing for growth hormone began in Major League Baseball this season, while the NBA and its players' union debate the issue. The NHL committed to a similar population study in its latest collective bargaining agreement, but remains in a similar position to the NFL, where no further testing has been planned.