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Congress sets NFL hearing for Dec. 12

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A congressional subcommittee will probe why the NFL has delayed implementing testing for human growth hormone at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 12.

Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus and Larry Bowers, the chief science officer at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency are among those expected to testify in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced on Monday. The same committee had previously held private meetings with league and NFL Players Association officials on the matter.

This hearing is the latest turn since the league and the players’ union initially agreed to test for HGH — a screening that requires a blood sample — as part of the collective bargaining agreement ratified in August 2011. Since that time, the NFLPA has consistently blocked efforts to implement the test.

HGH is thought to be one of the most widely used performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports, both for its benefits (it can aid in recovery) and the fact it’s one of the hardest drugs to detect.

The NFLPA’s chief concern about the screening revolves around the population study used to validate the HGH test, which has been used internationally for several years. In the meantime, Major League Baseball became the first US professional sport to test its players for HGH and MLB announced last week it had conducted 1,181 blood tests.

“We think the science on the validity of the test is clear and we hope this will move the process forward,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told FOXSports.com in an email.

The league and the NFLPA agreed to conduct a new population study — one the union feels would be more applicable to its players — but the progress has been slow.

An NFLPA spokesman said the union had no comment at this time.

The Reform Committee met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA officials in October 2011. It appeared at the time that the two sides were close to an agreement to begin testing before the NFLPA raised more concerns.

Issa and the committee’s ranking member, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), wrote in an August letter to Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith that even the yet-to-be implemented plan to test for HGH was “woefully inadequate.” The fact that there would be no in-season testing, only about 10 percent of the players would be subject to the test and those randomly selected would have a 24-hour notice before the blood sample was taken were among the reasons listed.

The other experts expected to testify are Lawrence Tabak, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health; Mike Gimbel, director of the drug avoidance campaign Powered by Me!; and Linn Goldberg of the Oregon Health Sciences University.
 

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