NFL’s proposed test for HGH creates prickly situation

February 25, 2010 | Drew Forrester

On the surface, it seems fairly benign to ask a player in the NFL to provide a blood sample for the purposes of detecting Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in his system.

After all, if you’re not juicin’, why not just agree to the test?


Not really.

It’s much more complicated than that.

Asking someone to submit to a blood/urine test for anything they’re not under suspicion of doing can easily be debated as a violation of one’s privacy.

True, there are probably hundreds of thousands of companies in the U.S. that provide mandatory drug and alcohol testing for their employees, but the main goal in almost all of those situations is likely more about consumer safety and or company insurance regulations than for the employee’s personal welfare.

The NFL has said recently they’d be in favor of adopting testing policies for HGH to be included in whatever new collective bargaining agreement is eventually drawn up between the league and the Player’s Association.

The Player’s Association, naturally, is dead set against it.

I don’t blame them.

They should be against it.

Does the NFL have distinct probable cause to initiate this testing?

If so, what is it?  Because the players have big biceps and run fast?  Because quarterbacks can throw a football 60 yards from their knees?

Where’s the probable cause?

Is it baseball?  Is THAT the suspicious nature the NFL can point to, saying, “Well, we suspect a lot of baseball players have dabbled in steroids and HGH…so we’re putting one and one together.”

Occasionally, an NFL player runs afoul of the league’s “substance abuse policy” and is suspended for four games.  He immediately offers the now-common-but-still-flimsy-excuse of — “I bought that product over the counter a few weeks back and it must have had something more in it then I realized.”  Juan Dixon’s wife says that’s her husband’s excuse after he got nailed with Nandrolone in his system late last year in Spain.

Truth of the matter:  NFL players probably experiment with steroids.

Truth of the matter:  For whatever reason, not many of them — very, very few, in fact — are testing positive for it.

And the real truth is this:  The extremely small sample size so far of NFL players who have been caught using steroids makes it nearly impossible for the NFL to mandate HGH testing.

That doesn’t mean the league should ignore HGH/steroid research and/or reduce their testing policies…not at all.

Prediction:  Some NFL player – or two, or three – will be linked to an HGH investigation or criminal matter in the next 18 months.  It’s bound to happen.

But that might be the only way to finally be able to accurately say, “NFL players are tampering and/or using HGH”.

A test doesn’t necessarily prove anything.

I use this argument all the time about marijuana use in the NFL.  Do you know how I know FOR SURE that a bunch of players (my guess?  30%) in the NFL are weed-smokers?


That’s a sure sign right there that it’s fairly wide-spread.

You’re telling me that out of roughly 1,500 NFL players who take drug tests throughout the year/season, not one of them had marijuana in his system in 2009?

Sure.  And that snow on the ground in your front yard can be used to grill steaks, too.

We all know this:  there are plenty of mechanisms in place to “beat the test”, whether that’s for alcohol, pot, steroids and, I assume, HGH.  If you test a guy for something, give him 5 months and he’ll figure out the method to pass it…for certain.

Right now, though, just testing NFL players for HGH for the sake of testing them is, to me, just dead wrong.

Don’t worry, if NFL players really are toying around with HGH, someone will get the whistle blown on them fairly soon.  A court case or a sealed document or some kind of other public form of disclosure will somehow surface with several names attached to it and then the hunt begins.

But just showing up at the door of all 32 teams in the NFL and telling the players they MUST submit to this new HGH testing isn’t fair.

Why not just figure out a way to test all of them to see if they’re ever slugged their wife or girlfriend too?

Or maybe stick a needle in their finger to see if they broke curfew on the last road trip?

How about a needle to see if they’re cheating on their spouse?  We’d call that the Tiger Prick, no pun intended.

You just can’t test people for things without some reasonable amount of suspicion that they’re guilty of the act you’re testing them for…at least that’s the way it used to go when people’s rights were followed to the letter of the law.

When there’s reasonable suspicion that NFL players are using HGH, bring up the subject again and I’ll see how I feel about it then.

Right now, just saying, “well, a lot of athletes use steroids” isn’t good enough.  Or legal enough.