NEW ORLEANS – Chastising the NFL Players Association for standing in the way of testing for human growth hormone, two members of Congress told union head DeMaurice Smith in a letter sent Monday that they might ask players to testify before their committee.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland asked Smith to turn over documents connected to HGH negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA.
"We are disappointed with the NFLPA's remarkable recalcitrance, which has prevented meaningful progress on this issue," the letter said. "We intend to take a more active role to determine whether the position you have taken – that HGH is not a serious concern and that the test for HGH is unreliable – is consistent with the beliefs of rank and file NFL players."
The 10-year labor contract approved by the league's owners and players in August 2011 paved the way for HGH testing once certain parameters were set. But the union wants a new population study to assess the validity of the test for NFL players; it is used currently by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball.
Issa and Cummings also wrote that the NBA and its players have "made significant progress toward implementing an HGH test."
"Despite being the first of the major professional sports leagues to agree to test for HGH, the NFL has now fallen far behind its counterparts in implementing the agreement," the lawmakers wrote.
The letter added: "The Players Association's resistance to implementing an HGH test has led us to question whether the NFLPA leaders actually believe that HGH is a problem in the sport. For that reason, we intend to pursue a fact-finding agenda to determine whether NFL players consider HGH a problem in the league."
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said in a telephone interview that the letter was received Monday and that the union intends "to fully cooperate with the committee's requests, as we have done from the beginning of their interest in this issue. ... If the committee decides to hold a hearing, we would look forward to participating this time."
In December, the House Oversight panel did not invite the league or union to participate in a hearing to examine the science behind HGH testing. Experts testified that the test is reliable.
Issa and Cummings both said at the time they expected additional hearings.
Even once scientific issues are resolved, there will be other matters the league and union need to figure out, including who administers the test and what the appeals process will be.
"The players' union takes our direction from the players, and we have been consistent in our desire for a fair, effective and transparent implementation of an HGH test," Atallah said.
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