In any sport, players will try to cheat the system. If measures aren’t taken to prevent whatever cheating takes place, then it will become rampant. Obviously, what I’m mostly talking about is PEDs. There is no telling when the steroids were first used in the NFL (’70s?), but the NFL has been at the forefront of doing what it can to prevent steroid use among its players. The NFL began drug testing in 1987. That’s part of the reason why it was able to avoid the problems that MLB has faced. Baseball didn’t start drug testing until almost twenty years later. Being proactive when a problem became apparent allowed the NFL to avoid much larger headaches further down the road.
Today, for the most part, steroids are much harder to get away with. However, what’s likely replaced steroids as the go-to performance enhancer is HGH. The problem with HGH is that the only viable way to test for it is to obtain a blood sample, and, up to this point, no American professional sports leagues have been willing to undertake such a process. Not only is it expensive, but player unions have balked at the idea of surrendering a blood sample. For whatever reason, this seems more invasive than peeing in a cup. However, once again it looks like the NFL will be the first ones to take steps to prevent HGH use among its players.
According to NFL attorney Jeff Pash, HGH testing will probably be a part of this current collective bargaining agreement. Whether or not Pash is right remains to be seen, but this does raise some interesting issues.
For one, it’s likely that HGH use is rather prevalent among NFL players. Why wouldn’t it be? The league can’t test for it and the drug has reached a point where it has become popular among people who aren’t even athletes. In other words, it’s readily available and players who use it can’t get caught. That’s a formula for abuse. Does that mean it’s being abused? I have no idea, but based on previous precedent, I’m guessing it has been.
While the testing is expensive, that isn’t what’s holding the league back from taking measures against HGH. More than anything, the players don’t want to give blood. On the face of it, that seems like a reasonable stance, but the reality is that giving a little blood is probably not anymore invasive than the pee tests that players are forced to take. My experiences with the process in college were not very comfortable, and, honestly, I think I would’ve rather given a little blood than have someone stare at my junk while I peed in a cup. Also, there are probably more than a few players that don’t want to give blood samples simply because they can’t hide what’s in their blood like they can urine. As we’ve seen and heard from various players, you can mask pot and other drugs in your urine. I guess I don’t know for certain, but that seems like it would be much harder to do with blood.
Whatever their reasoning, the players’ refusal to submit to blood testing is probably something they should get over. In the end, preventing HGH now will benefit them more in the future. Drug scandals are good for nobody. Just ask Lance Armstrong and pretty much all of Major League Baseball.