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Steelers hopeful HGH testing deal will get done soon

| Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 10:37 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers president Art Rooney II watches practice Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers president Art Rooney II watches practice Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.

As the NFL and NFLPA push closer to coming to a mutual agreement for league-wide human growth hormone (HGH) testing, Steelers president Art Rooney II can't help but have one prevalent thought: What took so long?

“I think we should've had this done a couple years ago, and I am not quite sure why it took so long, to be honest,” Rooney said Friday.

The NFL and NFLPA recently agreed on conducting an HGH population study in which blood samples will be collected from players during training camp to set a baseline for the proper limit of hormones permitted.

It's a first step in a process that Rooney said he believes should've happened not long after the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified two years ago. It called for the sides work out details of testing.

“I will say that I don't think it should've taken this long,” Rooney said. “I would hope no later than next year (that testing will be in place). I would hope to at least get this population study done this year and have something in place for next season.”

The NFL and NFLPA continued to talk this week in hope of finalizing an agreement on testing procedures.

It's believed that once an agreement is reached, it will be the most scientifically valid HGH test in pro sports. Major League Baseball is the only professional league that has HGH testing, but it did not do a population study.

“I am fine with the testing,” Steelers safety and player rep Ryan Clark said. “We have done an extremely good job of the banner sport as far as performing-enhancing drugs go. We try to uphold a certain level of integrity there. I totally understand why the commissioner (Roger Goodell) and the NFLPA want to do it.”

Veteran linebacker Larry Foote wants to see testing in place as well. For him, the sooner it happens, the better.

“I am all for it,” Foote said. “We need to make it an even playing field. Get it out of the game. I don't think it helps you in football, but still, the guys need to stay away from that.”

Foote said he doesn't know of anybody or saw anybody taking HGH but has heard the “rumbles.”

“A lot of he said, she said. This guy is doing it, this guy is doing it,” Foote said. “It hasn't come through our locker room and never offered to me, but I hear a lot of rumors, so I am sure it has to be a problem. You get to wondering.”

Clark added about the usage around the league: “It isn't something that I've heard be real prevalent, but it is something that I wonder about. You see guys come back from injuries real fast, and you are sitting there all season with a bad hip.”

Rooney said he doesn't believe it's a rampant problem but acknowledged that it likely exists and needs to be removed from the league.

“There are most likely players trying it,” Rooney said. “Now, there is no way to know that. It is important for the integrity of the league, but I think it is important to the players to know that they are on a level playing field and are not lining up across somebody on PEDs.”

There still are a number of issues that have to be worked out before testing is in place, including procedural, economic and punishment/due process and appeals.

Clark said that making sure the test is accurate is the most important issues for the players.

“I think we have to do it in a way that is fair to the players,” Clark said. “There are not a lot of tests that are foolproof. There is a margin of error in every test, and we are trying to find a way where the testing process is fair. If that happens, then it is good for the sport.”

Rooney said there are a number of issues that have to be ironed out before testing will be agreed upon.

“There are issues that need to be worked out, but to me, they can be worked out,” Rooney said. “There is enough precedent out there that we should be able to get this done.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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