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NFL, Players Association continue HGH dispute

The SportsXchange

After another round of disagreement between the NFL Players Association and the league Tuesday, resolution over testing players for human growth hormone is no closer.

Drawing from the same decision by an independent arbitration panel, the players association claimed certain tests are unreliable while a spokesman for the league told The Sports Xchange the panel specifically said its finding was "irrelevant" in regards to the NFLPA's dispute.

At the center of this latest disagreement was the findings of an independent arbitration panel in the case of skier Andrus Veerapalu v. the International Ski Federation.

On Jan. 29, 2011, blood and urine samples were taken from Veerapalu in a room in the Tehvandi Sports Centre in Otepaa, Estonia. The exam was undertaken by the World Anti-Doping Agency ("WADA"). The tests resulted in an initial adverse finding against the athlete, who protested and as of Tuesday an independent arbitration panel exonerated the skier based on technicalities in the testing.

In what is probably a harbinger more of the same between the ever-feuding factions, the NFLPA sent an email Tuesday dated April 26, 2013 that cited the "independent arbitration panel" assertion that certain tests are not viable.

Jilian Rodgers of the NFLPA sent an email and posted on the players association site, the following:

"Today, an independent arbitration panel's decision found that the WADA isoform hGH test is unreliable. The suspension of an Olympic champion was overturned after findings that the hGH test administered by WADA is not scientifically verifiable. For almost two years, the NFL players have fought the NFL and certain members of Congress who have publicly referred to the players' insistence on scientific validity and fairness as 'stalling' and 'posturing.'

"Today's decision validates the players' demand for scientific validity, full due process rights, and a transparent system.

"DIRECT EXCERPT FROM THE DECISION: 'In the Panel's view Respondent has, on balance, failed to establish to the comfortable satisfaction of the Panel that the decision limits were correctly determined and that they would lead to the claimed specificity of 99.99%. Despite the Respondent's ample opportunities to convince the Panel on the correctness of the decision limits including in post-Hearing brief as well as in response to the two subsequent rounds of Panel Questions, the Panel cannot exclude to its comfortable satisfaction that the decision limits are overinclusive and could lead to an excessive amount of false positive results.'"

Requests for more information drew no response from Rodgers or the NFLPA.

Brian McCarthy, the NFL's Vice President of Corporate Communications, told The Sports Xchange:

"Surprisingly, the union uses this particular decision to justify and extend into overtime its game of duck and delay. In fact, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rebuked the union in its findings: 'The Panel agrees with the Respondent (International Ski Federation) that reference to the NFLPA's ongoing dispute regarding the implementation of the Test is irrelevant to the question of the Test's validity and reliability. The Panel further notes that the NFLPA dispute formed part of a wider National Football League/NFLPA discussion concerning their most recent collective bargaining agreement. The factual background and points of contention in that case are not relevant to this case.' "

"Contrary to the union's statement, the panel specifically found the test to be reliable: "... FIS had shown to their comfortable satisfaction that the HGH test is a reliable testing method for HGH abuse in professional sports that is based on scientifically correct assumptions and methods,' the ruling stated."

As long as the two sides continue to disagree about most elements in this hGH testing situation, a resolution that allows such testing does not seem close.
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