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Players question HGH test

Associated Press / September 9, 2011

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The NFL’s goal to be the first major professional sports league to implement testing for human growth hormone appears a long way from coming to fruition.

Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said yesterday that players have serious questions about the safety and reliability of the test. He said the World Anti-Doping Agency has not turned over the information the union has requested, and it will not agree to the test until that time.

“The one thing that we don’t know is what that population test looks like,’’ Smith said after addressing students at Santa Clara University. “Who was included in that study? What were the ratio levels?

“Were they tested, or was that population tested in conditions or similar situations that would mirror professional football athletes? I don’t know. And that’s information that [WADA] refuse to turn over.’’

HGH is naturally occurring in the body. The isoform test first used by WADA since 2004 - and which became more widespread in 2008 - is designed to detect synthetic HGH by measuring the ratio naturally occurring in the body against a population test.

WADA handles drug testing for the Olympics and is largely accepted as the gold standard for worldwide drug testing. Smith said he is concerned that it does not take into account the different types of bodies and conditioning routines of football players.

“We made a number of requests for WADA, specifically about the scientific justifications for the test that they provide,’’ Smith said. He would not elaborate on the other requests or set a timetable for the union’s plans.

Blood testing for HGH was part of the collective bargaining deal struck between the league and players this summer - but only if the union agreed to the methods. Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to Smith last week reiterating the league’s eagerness to implement HGH testing.

The NFL also notified teams that no HGH testing will be conducted before the season begins because the players’ association could not agree to the terms. The league has long disputed the union’s claims that the test is not valid.

“I think it’s important for player health and safety that they’re not using HGH,’’ Goodell said before last night’s opener between the Packers and Saints in Green Bay. “I also think it’s important for the integrity of the game. So we’re going to continue to pursue it aggressively. We’re ready to go. The players have some more questions, which they are pursuing, but we’re waiting to hear from them.’’

Tuck still hurting Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck didn’t practice because of a sore neck, and indicated he would not play in Sunday’s opener against the Redskins it improved. “I am concerned but I am not panicked,’’ Tuck said. “It is getting better, just not as fast as I want it to.’’ Tuck, who was limited in practice on Wednesday, suffered a stinger in a preseason game against the Jets Aug. 29 . . . Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins returned to practice a day after limping off with a knee injury, and appears likely to play Sunday night against the Jets . . . Running back Larry Johnson re-signed with the Dolphins five days after they cut him.

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