At Woodlawn, Goodell says NFL wants HGH test as part of new labor deal

During conference attended by area high school football players, Goodell says adding to drug program is 'critical'

league currently bans hormone but does not screen for it

  • At Woodlawn High, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joins Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore at an assembly for high school athletes and coaches about the dangers of steroids.
At Woodlawn High, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joins Rep.… (Jed Kirschbaum / Baltimore…)
April 04, 2011|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

The NFL apparently wants more than just a bigger cut of the league's revenue pool.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the league is insisting on human growth hormone testing as part of the new collective bargaining agreement with the players. He stressed the need to keep such banned substances out of the sport after telling 700 Baltimore-area high school football players at Woodlawn High about the dangers and repercussions of using performance-enhancing drugs.

"The integrity of the NFL is critical," Goodell said. "We have to make sure that we're doing everything possible to have the best drug program in sports. Making changes to our program is critical. We have done that over the years, and we have to do more, including the inclusion of HGH testing."

HGH use is prohibited by the NFL, but the league currently does not screen for it. In the past, the players have resisted any testing that would require blood to be drawn. They believe the tests are far too invasive and that discussion of testing should be withheld until a suitable urine test has been developed.

The NBA and NHL don't test for HGH. Major League Baseball does so in the minor leagues, and the International Olympic Committee has done it for the past seven years. The NFL has pursued HGH testing since 2008.

Athletes take HGH to increase such abilities as strength, speed and vision.

Goodell said HGH testing was proposed to the NFL Players Association before labor talks broke off March 11 and the lockout began. While Goodell wouldn't gauge the players' reaction to it, he said, "I believe they know the importance of doing it."

The NFL has prided itself on being ahead of the curve when it comes to drug testing in sports. The league began its steroid testing program in 1989, almost 15 years ahead of Major League Baseball.

According to Goodell, the NFL administers more than 14,000 random tests in a given year.

"You always have to modify your testing program to stay ahead of the people who are going to cheat the system," he said. "We would be naive to think that people aren't going to cheat the system. But we have to have the best drug testing program to be able to offset it."

Goodell participated at Monday's assembly — sponsored by St. Joseph Medical Center's "Powered by Me" awareness program — along with Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and Troy Vincent, a former All-Pro defensive back who is the NFL's vice president for player development.

During his talk with the students, Goodell asked how many aspired to become professional football players. Almost all the students raised their hands.

"They are trying to figure out how to get there," Cummings said. "We've seen constantly where youth are trying to emulate professional players, and we thought it was appropriate to have the top person in the NFL come and tell us what they're looking for in sports today."

Cummings said he talked briefly to Goodell about the lockout and hopes Congress won't have to get involved. A hearing in federal court over a preliminary injunction sought by the players to lift the lockout begins Wednesday.

"We don't believe this is an issue that should be decided in court," Goodell said. "This is an issue that should be decided at the bargaining table. We have to get back to that bargaining table no matter what the outcome of the litigation."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jamisonhensley

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