Players agree to toughen ban list
The league granted 500,000 to laboratories for further testing on HGH.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL and its players union have agreed to more extensive testing for performance-enhancing drugs and have added the blood-boosting substance EPO to the league's list of banned substances.
The agreement, announced jointly Wednesday by the league and union, also adds to the financial penalties for players suspended for using those drugs. Players suspended for using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs will forfeit a prorated portion of their signing bonuses.
Signing bonuses often are the only guaranteed portion of a player's compensation.
Numbers tested increases
In addition to the new test for EPO, the deal includes an increase from seven to 10 of the number of players on each team randomly tested each week during the season for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. That means there will be 12,000 tests each season, up from the current 10,000.
"It is important that the NFL and its players continue to be leaders on the issue of illegal and dangerous performance-enhancing drugs in sports," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "These latest improvements will help ensure that we continue to have a strong and effective program. As we have done in the past, we will review and modify the policy on an ongoing basis."
The new policy will make the NFL the only North American sports league to regularly test for EPO, in which urine will be tested, not blood. Baseball, however, did a round of testing for EPO in 2005.
There were no positives among the 500 samples tested, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said.
Baseball conducts urine tests of major and minor league players for performance-enhancing drugs and stimulants, with each player tested at least twice randomly per year. Baseball does not conduct blood tests and does not test for EPO or human growth hormone, but will test for HGH if a urine test for it is validated.
A baseball player who tests positive for steroids is banned for 50 games for a first violation. A player who tests positive for stimulants is required to undergo counseling for a first violation and is subject to six additional tests.
The NBA randomly tests players four times a season. Players who test positive for steroids or performance-enhancing drugs get a 10-game suspension for a first offense, a 25-game ban for a second offense, a one-year suspension for a third offense and disqualification if they're caught for a fourth time.
In the NHL, every player is subject to up to two random tests a year. A first-time offender gets a 20-game suspension without pay and mandatory referral to the league's substance abuse program. A second positive test carries a 60-game suspension.
The NFL policy mandates a four-game suspension for a first offense and a year for a second.
The enhancements to the drug policy have been pending for almost six months -- from about the time Goodell succeeded Paul Tagliabue as commissioner. The league and union began negotiating on additional tests and substances in September, but didn't reach agreement until this week.
Those discussions followed congressional reaction to a story in the Charlotte Observer on steroid prescriptions given to Carolina Panthers players by a South Carolina doctor during the 2003 season, which ended with Carolina losing the Super Bowl to New England.
One provision of the agreement increases the unpredictability of random testing during the season and offseason, making it harder for players using performance-enhancing substances to regulate their usage because they won't know when they might be tested.
EPO, which provides users more stamina by increasing their number of red blood cells, is used primarily by long-distance runners and cyclists. That testing will begin this summer when teams go to training camp.
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