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NFL, union stalled on HGH testing; Congress could get involved

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

How much power should NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have? (USATSI)
How much power should NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have? (USATSI)

How much power should NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have when it comes to doling out player punishments? The answer to that question seems to be one of the only things standing in the way of the NFL and and the NFL Player's Association agreeing to future HGH testing.

And if the league and the union don't get things squared away soon, Congress could get involved.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland took the union to task for not implementing HGH testing, "Continuing to block HGH testing in this way essentially will force Congress to intervene, which nobody wants."

The stalemate here revolves around how much power Goodell should have.

The NFL wants to keep things similar to how they are now: Goodell would hear all appeals involving player arrests, grand jury testimony and instances where there is demonstrated use of HGH or PED's.

The union doesn't want Goodell's iron fist making a ruling on all those issues. The union would prefer a panel of arbitrators handle it. The two sides have already agreed that instead of Goodell, an arbitration panel would dole out the punishment for any positive HGH or PED tests.

Under the union's current proposal, a non-HGH or PED suspension similar to Ben Roethlisberger's in 2010 would be handled by an arbitration panel, rather than Goodell. As would all player arrests.

NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch seems perplexed that the union won't agree to the NFL's demands because they agreed to them in August 2011 when the new collective bargaining agreement was signed.

"NFL players two years ago overwhelmingly agreed to HGH testing and to continuing the Commissioner's longstanding disciplinary authority in cases where a player is found to have violated the law by a judge or jury," Birch said in a statement.

The statement continued, "The union's latest demand has nothing to do with appeals from positive drug tests, nothing to do with ensuring a level playing field and nothing to do with keeping players safe from dangerous substances. It is simply a case of buyer's remorse, and an effort to renegotiate part of a long-term agreement that they have now decided they don't like."

The NFLPA's George Atallah says the players don't want Roger Goodell handing out player punishments. (USATSI)
The NFLPA's George Atallah says the players don't want Roger Goodell handing out player punishments. (USATSI)

NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said that players have voted twice on whether or not to let Goodell keep his authority and in both votes, the players said no.

"I don't expect the players' position to change on that," Atallah told the AP. "None of this stuff can move forward, none of the policy can change, without a vote. That's how our constitution works. [NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith] can't unilaterally agree to anything without taking it to a vote."

Atallah also pointed out that the union had already agreed to a preseason population study involving HGH testing, a study that the NFL supported but hasn't signed off on yet.

"The only case of buyer's remorse is the attached letter that the NFL agreed to weeks ago," Atallah wrote on the NFLPA website. "Our signature is on it. Sign it, like you agreed to, and we start drawing blood from players immediately. Your refusal to sign it confirms that the only thing you care about is power."

The population study would involve the league collecting specimens from players during the preseason. However, players wouldn't be punished. The preseason specimens would be used to decide the threshold for a positive HGH test. Regular testing would then begin as early as Week 1.

As for Goodell giving up his power, that's not likely to happen, according to Birch.

"From the league's perspective, we're talking about an authority and responsibility that the commissioner has had for more than 50 years," Birch said, via NFL.com. "It's at the core of the commissioner's responsibility -- he's the one protecting the integrity of the game, and he determines what impact those things have on the long-term best interests of football. That's why the commissioner is not willing to cede to someone that's not similarly invested in the good of the game."

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