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The NFL and HGH Testing

The popular drug of choice when it comes to getting an edge in professional sports--HGH, Human Growth Hormone. Should the NFL begin the required blood testing?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith
Michael Loccisano

HGH Definition and Pros

For those of you who are unaware, let's begin with a quick look at the purpose and definition of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). From WebMD:

HGH, produced by the pituitary gland, spurs growth in children and adolescents. It also helps to regulate body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function. Produced synthetically, HGH is the active ingredient in a number of prescription drugs and in other products available widely over the Internet.

In layman's terms: HGH can take your body to a new limit: increasing muscle mass (strength), bone growth (height, length, mass), metabolism (the ability to break substance down and convert to energy) and in a not as common instance your actual heart functions increase. Can you imagine if you were to grow stronger, taller, thicker, faster, more explosive and have a higher level of function for your heart? Well, perhaps we would be at training camp instead of reading sports blogs. You can see the appeal for an athlete to take HGH. Competitive sports are about seizing advantages and when your career and, more importantly, your paycheck are on the need an advantage. HGH offers that bounce in your step and can revitalize your career, along with your chances for higher paychecks, career longevity, and the fame that most seek.

Cons of HGH

What could go wrong? Again, WebMD:

  • HGH deficiency-Your body is adaptable. If you teach your body that it doesn't need to manufacture HGH, then it won't.
  • Prader-Wili Syndrome -An uncommon genetic disorder that involves releasing two types of sex hormone
  • Chronic kidney failure-The extreme example would involve ending up on a dialysis machine.
  • Short-Bowel Syndrome
  • Muscle wasting disease found in HIV/AIDS

From Dr. Michael Roizen on ShareCare:

Many marketers want you to believe that boosting HGH blood levels can reduce body fat; build muscle; improve sex life, sleep quality, vision, and memory; restore hair growth and color; strengthen the immune system; normalize blood sugar; increase energy; and turn back your body's biological clock.

But the flip side is that it causes swollen and painful joints, carpal tunnel syndrome, gynecomastia (big breasts are a big price to pay for men), and a trend toward the onset of diabetes (a big price for both genders). It also offers no benefits in clinically relevant outcomes, such as bone density, cholesterol and lipids, and maximal oxygen consumption.

Maybe it's not quite the wonder of a drug as athletes and their advantages make it seem . However, even with all the cons, the results are always impressive. I'm sure you or a close friend know someone that is in some way associated with HGH. I've known a few myself and I've even heard "rumors" of players on major college football programs that take HGH regular. One friend told me his friend accepted HGH because at that popular, competitive university HGH was "handed out like candy". I can't prove that's true so it will be remain a rumored story.

HGH can come in the form of shots, pills, and sprays. It can contribute to cancerous cells, increase nerve and joint pain and make you a superb athlete. HGH can keep you in your line of athletic work and possibly even make you pay for it later. It all comes down to a risk vs reward scenario and the athletes themselves have to decide if the metaphorical juice is worth the squeeze.

So, how real is the problem and will testing arrive soon?

CBS Sports' Mike Freeman recently had an eye-opening article describing the current scenario in the NFL in which he stated that "players have fully bought into the mindset that one of the few things that can kill the cash cow that is the NFL is the perception that the league is drugged up." This, if true, speaks volumes. put out a story regarding the blood-testing that HGH would require. A source told's Albert Breer and Andrea Kramer that the sides were "much further along" than they had been at any point since agreeing upon looking into the testing way back in 2011. The article goes on to state that three main problems are as follows: procedural, economic, and due process/appeals. These categories could be seen as issues regarding almost anything NFL-related at the moment so it becomes difficult to imagine that these problems will be fixed with what could equate to an immediate handshake agreement.

Breer and Kramer also mention that each HGH test kit costs over $2,000. They go on to ask who will foot the bill. This is a great question and as with every money-centered argument between the NFL and the NFLPA we already know that the answer lies many months from now. However, the push is to have this issue fully addressed and testing beginning for the 2013 season.

A quick quote from Breer and Kramer's article:

A seperate memo sent Monday from the NFLPA to the players said: "In preparation for training camp, you should be prepared to provide a sample of blood for your routine and required training camp physical." Those samples can't be tested for HGH until after the issues are finalized and agreed upon.

Marketing should eventually be an issue, with clear players becoming the faces of HGH-free NFL campaigns. I have no doubt they will promote. Imagine HGH-Free NFL campaigns with players such as Adrian Peterson. Peterson claims to be free and is a success story. The NFL will take advantage.

Though it does present the question: What happens if a major player fails the test repeatedly? Could you imagine Tom Brady failing? The repercussions would be irreparable for the foreseeable future.


Recently, some current NFL players have given their opinions regarding HGH testing:

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: "I'm not big on blood testing. But it's something that needs to be done to make sure that our game is fair and upholds the integrity that we all want it to."

Texans WR Andre Johnson: "Whatever they need to do to make sure the game is played the way it's supposed to be played, I'm all for it."

Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis: "I don’t take it, so who cares. I’ve never taken anything, and I can’t imagine taking anything. You’re not just cheating yourself, but your peers. I think it’s good to test guys. You don’t want to be playing somebody who’s a Wolverine on the field."

Jaguars OT Eugene Monroe: "I think it’s something that definitely needs to happen. I don’t know the details and how they plan to do it. But the game needs to be clean. You want everyone on an equal playing field."

The above mentioned Vikings running back Adrian Peterson went on to say that he is "clean as a whistle."