I am surprised that it took this long for the inevitable to occur…and no, I’m not referring to the death of Adam Sandler’s acting career. This is about the balance of power shifting in the universe; this is about the integrity of our athletes playing in our favorite sports. This is about: steroids…no, I’m sorry, I meant to say Human Growth Hormone. I still had Sandler on the mind, and steroids were popular the last time he put a good movie out.
Yes, HGH. The NFL and the Players Association have finally begun the arduous process of testing for this hormone in their athletes. At least that’s what it will lead to eventually; both sides have agreed in principle on a population study for HGH testing. This is basically a precursor to a formal testing method, just like the NFL already has in place for other banned substances.
Once the details are finalized, the plan is to have blood drawn from every single NFL player for the study. One of the sticking points with the player’s union is the idea that players will be punished retroactively once an official policy is put into place; but it does sound like official testing will be moving forward eventually.
So the question is: what is the significance of this announcement? Well, one aspect to consider is that it could have long-term effects on arguably the most popular sport in our nation. Major League Baseball already conducts official HGH testing on the players in their league; why was the NFL so slow to follow suit?
You could theoretically argue that HGH is to football the same way that steroids were to baseball. Everyone remembers when steroid usage was rampant in the MLB, and players were regularly hitting forty to fifty home runs a year. This made for an exciting game and drew the interest of millions of fans throughout the country.
HGH, in theory, is supposed to be able to enhance the performance of athletes much more effectively than other methods. While there are some more recent studies that have been unable to support whether this is true, the reality is that there are quite a few NFL players that have been utilizing this substance to improve their game. I imagine that the population study will give us a much better idea on how rampant its use is, and we can speculate from there on how effective it has been. If test results come back saying that Tony Romo has been using HGH, I am going to REALLY question how effective it can be as a performance enhancer.
I was thinking about the timing of this agreement on testing as well. With Roger Goodell cracking down on player safety, the need for 275 pound, hulking linebackers is eventually going to go the way of the railroad. Agreeing to preliminary testing could be viewed as a nod towards the direction that the league is headed in regards to player contact.
If it turns out that HGH is being used in the majority of NFL players, and a ban eventually comes into effect, will there be a significant drop in excitement to the game? Hard hits and amazing plays were a huge part of football for decades; if there is any drop in excitement, I would likely attribute that to the league implementing policies that protect the players and slow down the pace of the game.
Either way, we all know that an HGH ban would eventually clear the way for players to look into newer methods of upping their game. Heck, I hope studies come back showing that the most gifted athletes took HGH, maybe we can give some to Adam Sandler…