NFLPA president Eric Winston responded to commissioner Roger Goodell’s comments about lagging negotiations geared toward reaching a detailed testing agreement for Human Growth Hormone.
“Let me be clear: The players want HGH testing,” Winston said.
What players aren’t interested in, Winston said, is allowing Goodell to serve as judge, jury and executioner in the process. Winston said from the players’ perspective, a level playing field is coveted, but until Goodell cedes appeals control, Winston said the best description of current talks is “we’re stuck.”
“On HGH, most of it’s already agreed to — everything is pretty much agreed to, it’s just the factor of mutual arbitration,” Winston told Sirius/XM NFL Radio on Wednesday. “We just feel like it’s important that there’s mutual arbitration. While obviously the commissioner would suspend the player, that the appeal doesn’t go back to him.”
Goodell said Tuesday, “It’s time to get it going. Let’s go.” He chided the NFLPA for what he considered ironic outreach in recent weeks seeking the commissioner’s intervention in the Robert Mathis four-game suspension. Mathis had more sacks than any other player ever at age 33 last season but tested positive for testosterone, a banned substance. Mathis said he was taking it for fertility reasons, and his wife became pregnant with twins.
However, Mathis did not convince the NFL and Goodell of his innocence in the appeals process, which was exhausted.
“The players don’t want Goodell having the ability to suspend the person and hear the appeal as well in certain HGH cases,” said Winston. “We’re stuck at that point. That’s really where we are. There’s nothing else to really say about it.
“Obviously we’ve seen cases in the past, non-HGH cases, the players have seen it where the commissioner suspends and hears the appeals. The players don’t feel like they’re getting a fair shake. … They don’t want him to be the appeals officer. They want neutral arbitration. Until that happens, I don’t see really a way forward.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement in February that it is now clear the league wants HGH testing more than players do. This week reports indicated some give-and-take could be possible if the league lessens its threshold for positive marijuana tests, which is much harsher than even the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Winston said the NFLPA is not so naïve as to insinuate there are no players taking HGH, but denied use of the performance-enhancer is an epidemic.
“I’m not going to sit here and say there’s no one taking it,” he said. “Is someone probably taking it? Yes. But I can’t sit here and tell you and say it’s a rampant problem.”