NFL implements game-day testing for steroids

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

The NFL will drug test for steroids on game days, according to a league official who said Tuesday that he expects the testing will begin with the first week of the season as agreed to under the league's new collective bargaining agreement.

Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of law and labor policy, said the league will use the game-day testing only for performance-enhancers and not for recreational drugs like cocaine and marijuana.

"This is primarily a competitive issue, so we do not contemplate utilizing it for the substances-of-abuse recreational drugs," Birch said during a conference call. "But it is something that will involve any of the potential testing we do under the steroid policy."

The new 10-year CBA that was hammered out during the NFL's more than four- month lockout includes blood testing for human growth hormone, the first such test in any of the country's major sports.

Details are still being hashed out, but Birch said the program is all but finalized at this point.

"The framework of the testing procedures, I think both sides would agree, is largely agreed to and I don't expect that there will be much more need to discuss those," he said.

As for game-day testing, Birch said the NFL has avoided it in the past because of the logistics involved.

"But we have now developed a solution that will allow us to do game-day testing in a way that is not overly disruptive to the clubs and respects the game-day process and all of the things going on," he said.

The NFL is consulting with the World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and other groups about its implementation of HGH testing. Birch said the program the NFL is implementing will be effective enough to "meet any sort of scrutiny that will be put on it."

The process of selecting players for tests will be random.

"Every player is subject to and eligible for testing on a year-round basis with no notice. The way we have designed the program -- again, there are some details to iron out -- but the bulk of the program is pretty much in place and agreed to," Birch said.

"It would involve testing on an annual basis, meaning during the preseason all or some portion of players would be subject to a test as they return to training camp. It would involve testing of a number of players per team, per week during the season. By season, I mean the first preseason game through the end of the postseason and Super Bowl, and it will involve testing some portion of players during the offseason."

Birch said players can only be tested a maximum of six times during the offseason, a period that stretches from February to the start of training camp. During the season, players are eligible to be tested as often as the NFL tests.

"That could be, if a person were particularly lucky or unlucky, it could be 22 or 23 times," Birch said. "I don't suspect it will be that much, but the number of test dates that we will have, I would certainly expect our players to be tested in an amount that would be meaningful."

Birch said the number of tests aren't important; it's the threat of testing that provides players with a deterrent not to use performance-enhancers.

The testing program in the NFL, Birch explained, is designed to distinguish between substances produced naturally by the body and those that are injected or ingested. He said the league's toxicologist was part of the team that developed the original HGH test that has been used around the world since 2004.

"The point of this is to make sure everyone knows what our league stands for. We stand for clean competition and a level playing field," Birch said. "It is important to our players, it is important to our clubs, and it is important to our fans. We believe this testing regimen, once we get it into place, will go a long way into maintaining our status as among the most effective sports anti-doping programs that exists right now."

The NFL season begins Thursday, September 8 with the Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints.


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