Democrats getting involved in NFL drug-testing

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Democrats getting involved in NFL drug-testing

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three Democratic congressmen are urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the impasse between the NFL and players union on testing for human growth hormone. California Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the committee, and two others made the request in a letter Tuesday to chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as part of their new collective bargaining agreement reached in late July -- but only if the union agreed to the methods. The union has delayed implementing the test, asking for more scientific data to prove it is reliable. "This delay is a cause for concern," wrote Waxman, along with G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Bobby Rush of Illinois, both of whom chair subcommittees on the panel. The lawmakers cited a recent letter to the union and NFL from nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world stating the current test is scientifically reliable; and noted that the test has been used in the Olympics. "There appear to be few questions about the validity of the HGH test," the Democrats wrote. They also noted that CBS football analyst Boomer Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, said that the union is "backing off because they have players guilty of using this substance," and said that many believe at least 20 percent of players are using it. "We hope that this is not the case," the congressmen wrote. "Committee hearings will allow us to learn about these issues, hearing from top scientists about the validity of HGH testing and from the NFL and the NFLPA about the extent of HGH use in the league and their plans for testing to eliminate such use." In an email to The Associated Press, union head DeMaurice Smith said that players' health and the safety and integrity of the game go hand-in-hand. "I applaud the members in their request for a hearing and look forward to fully discussing all of these issues as soon as possible," he said. "We are sending letters to the teams immediately in order to assist Congress in its fact finding mission." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league appreciated the lawmakers' commitment to the issue, "but there should be no need for this hearing if the union would simply live up to its agreements." A spokesman for Upton's committee, Sean Bonyun, said lawmakers on the committee are in bipartisan agreement that "it is well past time for the NFL and Players Union to live up to their HGH testing agreement." "Each day that goes by without rigorous HGH testing tarnishes the image of the NFL and sends the wrong message to the nation's youth," Bonyun said. Earlier this month, the chairman and ranking member of another panel, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, emerged from a meeting with the NFL and players union and announced a deal to begin collecting blood for testing. But the union demurred, and last week, told the NFL to hold off collecting the blood. The union is seeking data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test, so it can compare that data with a population study on football players. The union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels than those of other athletes.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

As the NBA trade deadline gets closer and closer, A. Sherrod Blakely helps shed some light as to why the Boston Celtics may be unwilling to part ways with Jae Crowder