Are the owners using blood testing as a bargaining chip?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell leaves a federal courthouse after participating in court-ordered talks regarding labor and revenue issues between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in Minneapolis, April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

The New York Times is reporting that the NFL has talked to the World Anti-Doping Agency about possibly overseeing testing of players for performance-enhancing drugs if a federal appeals court forces the league to end the lockout.

That could even eventually include blood tests for human growth hormone, which have never been administered to N.F.L. players but which the league has in recent years said it wants to include in the next collective bargaining agreement, the official said.

The N.F.L. and the players union have resisted third-party administration of drug testing, the protocol and penalties of which were negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

But without an agreement in place, and with the decertified union unable to negotiate on behalf of players, the N.F.L. would be able to unilaterally impose a drug-testing program and penalties — much as it could impose rules related to the salary cap and free agency — although it could be subject to challenge by players in court. But the N.F.L. contends that without a union to provide checks and balances, a third party overseeing the program may be necessary for credibility and transparency.

Does anyone else get the sense that the NFL is trying to use blood testing (which the players have been adamantly opposed to for years) as a bargaining chip for if/when they lose in court and the lockout is lifted?

“Hi players…yes, that was a nice victory in court. Well played – you got us. Just to let you know though: WADA will be testing everyone’s blood for HGH from here on out…What’s that? Sure, we’d love to return to the bargaining tables and hammer something out. Great suggestion – we hadn’t thought of that.”

Of course, Roger Goodell has been trying to beef up the league’s testing policy for a while, so it may be a tad extreme to suggest that the owners are using WADA as a negotiating tactic. I truly believe that Goodell does want to ensure that the game is clean, so it’s not a stretch to think that blood testing has nothing to do with the labor dispute.

Still, the owners and players are in a battle and I wouldn’t put it past either side to use what they have in terms of bargaining chips. And if the players truly loathe the idea of blood testing, then it’s in the owners’ best interest to use that to their advantage.

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