Something that we haven't really touched on that much here at MCM this offseason which is sure to generate some controversy is the league's new HGH testing policy. Whilst browsing through other SBN blogs this evening, I found an interesting piece on Battle Red Blog about how the new testing policy was as likely to, as the author put it, "lessen the use of PEDs in the NFL the way not letting me take a coffee through security lessens future terrorist attacks."
I don't know how totally black and white the entire issue is, but I have to say that I agree. This is just too easy of a system to beat and random testing won't do anything to help that. If it does, the chances of having a significant enough impact through the punishment system are so slim that it seems almost hopeless.
For starters, unlike many other drugs, HGH is detected through a simple blood test. However, it's painfully easy to cheat said blood test as long as the last injection was, at the most, two days before the test. So unless the NFL plans on getting extremely lucky with their big anti-HGH raids, the likelihood that someone will get caught by injecting HGH less than two days before his required blood test seems low. I don't mean to say that no one will ever be caught by a random drug test. There's usually, at most, a few players every year who are busted for illegal use of PED's and are disciplined, but to think that this will eliminate the problem altogether, a goal that should be targeted by the league office, is foolish.
From where I'm standing, this is much more of "it's the thought that counts" addition to the CBA. The NFL will get brownie points for attempting to weed out some of the offenders while the real prevention will come from players with enough common sense to not exercise their legal right to use the substance and realize that there are very real dangers associated with prolonged usage. Like anything, too much or too little of the naturally-produced HGH will result in some seriously nasty side effects. Some of the worst include brain tumors, increased susceptibility to diabetes, and while the link was never officially made, reports that it can lead colon cancer and prostate cancer are definitely out there.
The way I see it, the only way to eliminate the problem is through severe penalties (like, not just a four game suspension) being handed down to even first time offenders. If the league is really as concerned for the long-term health of their players, they'll crack down on HGH and all other PED's hard. As serious and common as the concussion problem is in today's game, the threat of lasting side effects from HGH and other PED's should be taken just as seriously, if not more so. In a perfect world, players would be speaking out against the usage of all PED's to kids who play today to help discourage usage. I'd be lying if I told you that none of my teammates over the years have never given in to the temptation for a quick boost. In high school, the frequency of testing is an absolute joke. I appreciate the trust that the league has given us to not use PED's, but in all honesty, we don't deserve it. I'm not saying the use of steroids is rampant, but there are times where it's painfully obvious (drastically improved 40 time, significant gain in muscle mass over short periods of time, etc.) when some players are using. Although the results are awesome, the risks just aren't worth it. As for players like Gerald McRath and Brian Cushing, judging their actions isn't necessary. In a profession where your body is your meal ticket, some bad decisions are sure to be made. Do I wish that their penalties had been a little bit more severe? Yes, absolutely, but as far as their actions go, they're regrettable, but understandable.
I have my doubts that this policy will do much of anything to help eliminate the use of drugs in the NFL. Ultimately, this has to be a choice that everyone who enters the league will make to not use PED's. The only way to fix the problem is through the conscious decision of all players to set an example and just say no.