DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, has taken a few hits off the field. Namely, he and the union have been accused of stalling over details that would lead to the implementation of human growth hormone testing in the NFL.
In fact, a Thursday column in USA Today criticized the union for dragging its feet, using insight from the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo took those issues directly to Smith for a Q&A.
Smith didn't buy the accusations of stalling in negotiations of implementating of HGH testing.
Q: There have been some accusatory statements made that the NFLPA has been holding up the process of HGH testing with a population study and other matters. NFL officials have said as much and as recently as Thursday's USA Today, there have been such suggestions in the media as well. What's your view of that?
A: I don't really have a view. I know what's factually accurate, and it's good news for the players of the National Football League, it's good news for the league. Players and league have agreed to a protocol to begin HGH testing. There will be a population study that will include the testing of all players in order to determine the correct decision limit for determining violations of the performance-enhancing policy. The two sides have agreed that should commence in training camp. The sides have agreed on protocols for random testing throughout the year that will be in place and then tested against the decision limit that's been reached. And the sides have agreed on a completely neutral researcher and biostatisticians who will be in charge of conducting the population study. The good news is after a rather torturous process, the league agreed to the population study that we have been insisting was scientifically necessary. We are all prepared for that HGH process and testing to begin.
Q: So they've returned your letter in which you agreed to the population-study protocol?
A: It's just awaiting Roger (Goodell's) signature, but went through every aspect of that letter and my understanding is there are no disagreements of how to conduct this study and what happens during the course of the analysis.
Smith said the sides have agreed to procedures, but he was non-committal over a timeline for starting HGH testing. Smith denied involvement in the reported population study that will involve former players and referred Garafolo to the independent doctor for details.
Q: To be clear, testing former players is not your idea?
A: This is not an NFLPA study. This is not an NFL study. The drug policy is a collectively bargained, joint program and the course that we've both decided on was using the expertise of a neutral researcher.
As for the reason the testing hasn't become official yet, Smith said it's because Goodell hasn't finished the details of the disciplinary process.
Q: So what's holding up the whole thing? Why do we not yet have HGH testing in the NFL?
A: The only thing holding up the full drug program is the commissioner wants to carve out neutral arbitration for all aspects of the drug program for certain violations of law or evidentiary violations. The overwhelming vote of our player representatives on every team is that players should have the right of neutral arbitration for every aspect of the drug program, not just the parts that Roger Goodell wants to keep for himself.
Q: All in all, we're now more than two years removed from the decision to work toward an agreement on HGH testing. Did you think it was going to last this long? Do you wish it had come sooner? Do you hope it's not going to keep dragging out?
A: This is collective bargaining and the drug program is a joint, collectively bargained program. The players' incentive, as well as the league's incentive, is to come up with the best testing protocol. It's certainly taken some time to make sure we do it the right way so it's fair for both parties. The reality of collective bargaining is sometimes it takes longer to get it right. I'm proud of the way in which the league has embraced the population study and the scientific rigor that needs to be employed to get this right. Think about this: This is the first time that a league, any league, has undertaken such a scientifically rigorous course to validate drug testing. That is something that, while it took a long time, both of us should be proud.
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor