Florida Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns and Congressman Jim Matheson, D-Utah, want to know what the National Football League and the League's Players Association are doing to combat human growth hormones (HGH) in their sport.
The pair teamed up to send a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association Director DeMaurice Smith demanding an answer. The representatives also insisted that Congress should keep out over continued negotiations between NFL owners and players -- a boiling pot that threatens to impact the 2011-12 football season.
The letter was released Thursday but had been sent out a week earlier, on May 12.
We have followed, with interest, the negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement, wrote Stearns and Matheson. Generally, Congress has no role to play in your negotiations, yet there is one subject where Congress has participated historically in order to advance good public policy. Specifically, that issue is the drug-testing programs of professional sports leagues.
The congressmen insisted that the issue was an important one. The example that the NFL sets with drug testing remains vital to youth athletes around the country, wrote the congressmen.
Stearns, a veteran of the House who first was elected in 1988, is no stranger to the subject. During his tenure as chairman of the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, Stearns led hearings on drug testing in professional sports and urged Major League Baseball to crack down on players taking steroids.
Stearns and Matheson stressed the importance of those hearings in the letter. The high-profile nature of the criminal trials of baseball superstars demonstrates the ongoing interest among the general public and the constant need for congressional vigilance on this important issue, noted the congressmen.
Recent positive tests of athletes for human growth hormone in Europe and Canada suggest that the breakthroughs in testing are real, insisted the congressmen in the letter. Now that the science surrounding the test has been established, we support the efforts to find common ground in adopting a thorough testing program for HGH in the NFL.
As the science around both performance-enhancing drugs, as well as the ability to detect such substances, constantly changes, it is incumbent on the professional sports leagues and most specifically on the most popular league to constantly demonstrate your seriousness on this issue, wrote the congressmen before closing with a demand to hear back from the NFL and the Players Association. We look forward to a response describing how you intend to support your desire to have the best drug-testing program and what role your current negotiations can play toward facilitating that goal with regard to HGH.
Sunshine State News reached out to the NFL and to the Players Association Thursday, but they did not return calls.
Kevin Derby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.