WASHINGTON -- Two lawmakers who want the NFL to test players for human growth hormone say the players union might be stalling to avoid putting the test in place.
"Unfortunately, it appears that the players' union may be using stall tactics to avoid complying with the collective bargaining agreement," wrote California Republican Darrell Issa and Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings in a letter to the union and league Friday. "For example, we have not received an adequate justification for refusing to allow the collection of blood samples while negotiations continue about the testing regimen."
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Cummings, the panel's top Democrat, said after a meeting with the league and the union two weeks ago that there was a deal to begin collecting blood for testing. But the union didn't acknowledge any agreement, and has since told the NFL to hold off.
In their letter Friday, the congressmen said they had warned both sides at that meeting that if there wasn't progress within two weeks, the NFL and union would be brought back. Barring news of progress, they wrote, "we will be in touch with you shortly."
The congressmen said they were disappointed in the lack of movement, adding, "Every week of football played without a test endangers clean players and sends a message to young athletes that HGH is tolerated at the game's highest level."
The union issued a statement in response to the letter: "Players have made it clear that the only priority is getting a testing procedure that is right and fair. That is what we will do."
In a statement, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league shares the lawmakers' disappointment.
"We are ready to begin immediately collecting samples and educating players on the testing program," he said.
The latest collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and union includes a provision to begin testing players for HGH -- contingent on the union agreeing to the testing methods. The NFL Players Association has asked for more scientific data to prove the most popular test is reliable.
The congressmen wrote that USADA, the U.S. anti-doping agency, last week offered an opportunity to tour its testing facility, where the union would be walked through every stage of the test. According to the letter, the union declined, which the lawmakers took as one of several signals that the union had a "lack of urgency" to live up to the terms of the CBA. A committee spokesman said that USADA told the committee about this offer.
Issa and Cummings said they appreciated the players' concerns that the testing not expose them to false positives, but said that both sides have an obligation to abide by the terms of the CBA.
The union is seeking data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds for what constitutes a positive test, so it can compare that data with a population study on football players. The union believes football players could have naturally higher HGH levels than those of other athletes.
Earlier this week, senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee urged that panel's chairman to hold hearings on the HGH impasse.