Although it remains nowhere close to the steroid mania surrounding professional baseball, the NBA has become more serious regarding performance-enhancing drugs. Suspensions are still few and far between, but people appear to be more willing to consider that PEDs are used in the NBA. (It should be noted that we have no idea if they are, or to what extent.) TrueHoop's excellent "Working Bodies" series, for instance, has attempted to explain what's required for a human body to achieve what occurs on an NBA court, and PEDs could very well be a part of that.
In February, this growing sense of unease, along with similar announcements from the NFL and MLB, led commissioner David Stern to announce that the league hoped to institute testing for human growth hormone for the 2013-14 season. However, according to a report from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, the NBA and NBPA are nowhere close to an agreement with the regular season a little more than a month away:
Officials from the league office and National Basketball Players Association met earlier this month in New York to continue discussions on the matter, but a person familiar with the talks told CBSSports.com, "Nothing is anywhere near being agreed to." The negotiations are ongoing, but the gap may be too wide to close in time for a policy to be in place in time for the start of the regular season.
The impasse is hardly surprising, considering that the NFL has yet to move forward with an HGH testing plan that the league tentatively agreed to with the union in August. Implementation of the NFL's policy is in a holding pattern due to disagreements between the two sides on issues such as disciplinary procedures. [...]
As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the NBA and NBPA appointed a panel of experts to study the issue of HGH testing and report its findings. A person with knowledge of the study told CBSSports.com that the panel's work is continuing. Among the matters at issue is the proper establishment of baseline levels, the reliability of blood screening for HGH and disciplinary procedures, league sources said.
This news is indeed not particularly surprising, due to both the broader context of HGH testing in American sports and the form of negotiations required to get it passed in the NBA. Both the league and players union can agree that HGH testing without agreeing on the same standards. in terms of procedure and thresholds. Consenting to any testing at all is actually a pretty early stage in the process.
The timing isn't ideal, but this is a case of the system working as it's supposed to. The union has to protect its members' rights to privacy, ensure that standards are not so strict as to impede their ability to stay in the league, and not get railroaded so badly that it hurts their ability to negotiate other issues in the future. The NBA, meanwhile, wants a testing standard strong enough that it can present a reputable product to the public. These are both valid positions, but it can take a long time to sort out the middle ground. It's even possible that Stern's initial estimate of this season was knowingly optimistic so that he could act as if the union were the more intractable party when that deadline was not met.
Again, it's a bummer that there's no testing standard currently in place. However, with an issue this important, both sides should take their time to get it correct and fair. A slow negotiation is not necessarily an unproductive one.