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Report: HGH blood testing to be phased in

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Dec 7 2011 5:09PM - Updated Dec 7 2011 9:29PM

A source who has been involved in the collective bargaining agreement discussions between the NBA and National Basketball Players Association said that a blood test for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) will not be immediately implemented in the new CBA, which is expected to be ratified by both sides Thursday. But an HGH test will eventually be phased in once a committee that will be established to look at the matter determines testing guidelines that are acceptable to both sides.

"The parties agreed to implement blood testing for HGH, subject to the test being validated by a neutral committee of experts," league spokesman Mike Bass said.

The league has been trying to increase both the amount of testing, focusing on more offseason tests for players, and the inclusion of HGH on the list of banned substances. But the players have resisted both of those requests during the negotiations this week on so-called "B List" issues. The owners and players reached agreement on most of the outstanding economic issues Nov. 26, which essentially ended the 149-day lockout.

A committee will be formed, according to the source, to study the most reliable testing procedures for HGH over the next couple of years.

According to a memo sent by union executive director Billy Hunter to players, obtained by The Associated Press, players are agreeing to offseason drug testing for other drugs known to enhance performance. Players could be tested up to two times during the July to September period, but the screens would not be for drugs such as marijuana.

The NFL and its players' association reached a tentative agreement last July to include HGH testing in that sport, but the NFLPA had to agree to the procedures for the test and has yet to sign off on any HGH test. Baseball's union apparently has also agreed to include HGH testing in its new agreement with Major League Baseball.

HGH, which occurs naturally in the pituitary gland and can also be manufactured, is used medically to help patients looking to add muscle mass or to recover from injuries, and it helps with bone growth. Athletes have used it to aid recovery from injuries as well, but it has been banned for use by Olympic athletes for the past several years because it is believed to enhance performance.

An Australian study last summer claimed that sprinters improved performance when using HGH, and while it didn't help them get stronger, it helped in sports where quick bursts of speed were necessary, such as running or swimming. A blood test for HGH has been available since 2004; HGH is not detectable in traditional urine tests.

NBA Players began voting electronically on the deal Wednesday night and could vote through Thursday afternoon, when owners will hold a meeting in New York to vote. If the deal is ratified by a majority on both sides, the NBA fully reopens for business Friday with the beginning of training camps and free agency.

After the tentative agreement Nov. 26, and owners soon after opened up the arenas so players could begin workouts without coaches present. In the meantime, lawyers for both sides continued to negotiate a lengthy list of "B-list" items right into Wednesday.

Among the items agreed upon, per Hunter's memo:

• A joint NBA-NBPA committee will discuss the age limit, which for now remains 19 years and one year out of high school.

• Players with three years of service or less may be assigned to the NBA Development League, with no limit on the number of assignments. No player with more than three years of service may be assigned to the D-League without his consent.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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