Union Chief Upshaw Against NFL Drug Testing Done by Third Party

Posted on Fri, Sep. 15, 2006

By Charles Chandler

McClatchy Newspapers


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw said Friday he is open to changing some of the league’s testing policies for performance-enhancing drugs, but won’t allow the program to be conducted by an outside entity.

Upshaw told the Charlotte Observer in an e-mail that he is “not willing to turn our testing program over to some third party in another country to screw it up.”

Some anti-doping specialists have criticized the NFL’s in-house testing for a lack of transparency and called for the league to allow an organization such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to administer the program to improve its integrity.

But Upshaw said bluntly: “WADA cannot be trusted.”

He cited recent testing controversies involving track star Marion Jones and cyclist Lance Armstrong. Leaked reports in August of Jones’ positive test for EPO made worldwide headlines before her “B” sample earlier this month failed to confirm the initial result. Armstrong has openly criticized WADA chairman Dick Pound for presuming him guilty when a French newspaper published an article last year saying the cyclist had used EPO during his 1999 Tour de France victory.

In response to questions from the Observer regarding the NFL’s testing program, Upshaw also said:

Any changes made to the program won’t be suddenly forced on players. Upshaw and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell plan to discuss possible changes when they meet next Thursday in New York. The meeting will also cover other topics, he said.

“How fast the changes will occur depends on what and if we decide to make changes,” said Upshaw. “I am a firm believer in notice.

“I do not want my players driving down the road and someone changes the speed limit after they pass.”

He’ll discuss with Goodell the possibility of randomly testing more players during the season. Currently, seven players per team per week are randomly tested during the regular season and for teams in the playoffs.

“We have not discussed a (new) number,” said Upshaw. “If there is a need to increase, we will do that.”

The No. 1 reason he won’t agree to blood testing for human growth hormone is because he doesn’t trust the reliability of current tests.

“Unlike the Olympics, we want to be sure the test is reliable and accurate before we destroy a player’s reputation, suspend him four weeks (for a first offense) and fine him his game checks,” said Upshaw.

Blood testing for HGH was conducted for some athletes in the 2004 Olympics at Athens, but none tested positive. There is debate in the scientific community about whether the test is reliable and would hold up if challenged in court.

Because there is no urine test for HGH, the NFL and other pro sports leagues do not test for it, leaving them vulnerable to potential widespread abuse.

Upshaw left open the possibility of considering blood testing for HGH in the future if scientific advances are made. Experts have said there appears little hope of a urine test being developed.

“When science can come up with a test that is reliable and we can trust the results, let me know,” said Upshaw. “Otherwise, to believe we should freeze blood samples and hold them until a test is developed is a ridiculous point of view.”

Anti-doping expert Dr. Gary Wadler, a WADA advisor, has urged the NFL to freeze blood samples until new tests are developed to serve as a deterrent to players using HGH.

“We have a union to represent our players and not some governing body that Wadler represents,” said Upshaw.

Upshaw said the NFLPA has been and remains concerned about keeping performance-enhancing drugs out of the league, but won’t be pressured into changes.

“We will not over-react to the noise of so-called experts that think they know what is best for NFL players,” he said. “I heed the advice of our own (medical) experts because I can trust them.

“We are testing our players on a regular basis and we are suspending players who test positive.”


~ by Sactown Raider Boosters on September 18, 2006.

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