HGH Testing in the NFL: Is the Science Ready?

Witness and Testimony Documents
NFL Hall of Famer
I Play Clean (iplayclean.org)
Chief Science Officer
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
Deputy Director
National Institutes of Health
Director, Powered by Me!
St. Joseph Medical Center
Oregon Health Sciences University
December 12, 2012, 10:00am in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

This Committee’s resources and time are normally focused on waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal bureaucracy.  There is certainly no lack of challenges facing this country that the Federal government must address. So why has this hearing on the science behind HGH testing been called?  The fact of the matter is that the lack of a testing regime in the NFL for Human Growth Hormone – or HGH – is a public health concern.  It affects not just the health and safety of NFL players, but more importantly endangers young athletes who admire and often try to emulate them.
 
There is no question in my mind that the NFL and its players are best positioned to police their own league.  On HGH, however, there has been a frustrating lack of progress on testing.  The possibility that federal legislation could eventually be adopted to address this problem may be unlikely at this point, but the league and its players would be unwise to ignore it.  For the past year and a half, the Ranking Member and I have heard from the league and the players association that they share an interest in implementing a test for HGH, which they agreed to do in August of 2011.  Despite that meeting of the minds, we have played nearly two full seasons without a test in place.  
 
In a series of meetings, the players told us that they are not comfortable with the current test for HGH.  They have raised a range of concerns—that the test is unreliable, it doesn’t account for the size and exertion of NFL athletes, and even that drawing blood from a player on game day would affect his performance.  The Committee does not have the resources to evaluate whether those concerns are valid.  What we can do is get input from the scientific community and other stakeholders to better understand whether the current test for HGH is reliable.  I am hopeful that after hearing testimony from witnesses, we will be in a better position to help the league and the players overcome obstacles to implement a test without further delay. 
 
The reality is that the actions of the NFL and its athletes matter.  All across America, the passion for professional football transcends our differences.  Football unites families, communities, and –  as RG3 has shown us here in Washington –  cities in ways that political leaders can only imagine. We all certainly agree that performance enhancing drugs are dangerous.  Human Growth Hormone, when used for non-FDA approved purposes, is no exception.  It has many known and potential health risks.  HGH has no place in America’s most popular sport.  The hearing’s distinguished panel of witnesses represent scientific institutes and organizations concerned about the negative effects of performance enhancing substances on the game of football and America’s youth.  I look forward to their testimony.