The NFL has begun testing for human growth hormone for the first time, three years after the league and players' union tentatively agreed to do so.
HGH testing was part of the 2011 labor agreement but was delayed because the NFL Players Association was not comfortable with the procedures or science involved. Both sides agreed last month on the new policy, which took effect Monday.
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A total of 950 tests will be performed during the regular season, postseason and preseason. In the offseason, about 385 tests will be done. Less than one tablespoon of blood will be taken from each player.
Each week during the season, five players on eight teams will be chosen randomly for testing as part of the normal testing procedures under the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy. No tests will occur on game days. Players subject to the blood testing must be on the active roster, practice squad or on injured reserve, and not already subject to reasonable-cause testing.
In the offseason, every player under contract not already undergoing reasonable-cause testing will be tested to a maximum of 90 per team.
One stumbling block in the agreement was the appeals process. Any appeal now will be heard by a neutral person, not by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designated.
"For the first time in the history of the NFL, our new collectively bargained policies usher in a neutral arbitration process for appeals of positive drug tests," NFLPA President Eric Winston said in a letter to union members.
Major League Baseball is the only other team sport in this country that tests for HGH. Pro boxing and all Olympic sports test for it.
The league and union also agreed to a minimum two-game suspension for a first driving-under-the-influence conviction. Longtime suspensions would be imposed for cases with extenuating circumstances such as personal injury or property damage, or in cases of repeat offenders.
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