LeBron James expressed indifference Saturday over the NBA’s planned blood tests for Human Growth Hormone beginning next season, a policy agreed to by the league and players’ union that was announced Thursday. “if it’s the rules, it’s the rules,” James said after Cleveland’s final practice before hosting Boston on Sunday in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”
NBA players will be blood-tested for human growth hormone beginning next season. The league and the players association announced Thursday that HGH testing will start during training camp next fall. All players will be subjected to three random, unannounced tests annually – two during the season and once in the offseason.
Marijuana is legal in Colorado. A player from the Denver Nuggets can legally smoke weed but would be penalized by the NBA for doing so. What will you do if these drug laws continue to erode, state by state? Adam Silver: It doesn’t force us to change our policy. Plenty of employers have rules against employees drinking, which is perfectly legal. This is a policy matter, and it’s our strong preference that our players do not consume marijuana. We believe it will affect their performance on the court. That said, marijuana testing is something that’s collectively bargained with the players’ association, and we adjust to the times. But we’re much more concerned about HGH testing and designer performance-enhancing drugs. Among our many priorities going forward, marijuana is not at the top of our list.
FIBA carried out an extensive anti-doping programme in the lead-up and during its main events in 2014, with the results confirming that all players who participated are clean and reinforcing the fact that basketball is a low-risk doping sport. More than 300 samples were collected over the course of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the FIBA World Championship for Women and the FIBA U17 World Championships for Men and Women, with a minimum of three players per team tested. The testing was carried out to establish Athlete Biological Passports (ABPs) and to detect Human Growth Hormones (HGH) and Erythropoietin (EPO) among others.
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“I don’t want to be naïve. We don’t have HGH testing in our league. It’s something we agreed we’d do with the union, and we’re waiting to figure out what the appropriate procedures are. Understandably — and I’m sympathetic to the players here — because it requires the taking of blood, we want to make sure it’s done in the absolute right way. The NFL and their player association are going through the same discussion.” Tygart, however, dismisses the long-held NBA position that a lack of overt signs of PEDs means the lack of a problem. “Don’t be naive to the pressures,” Tygart said before hearing Silver’s comments. “Take your head out of the sand.”
“Unfortunately, I think the athletes are being let down by the system,” Tygart said in an interview with ESPN.com at the Sloan Conference on sports analytics Saturday at MIT. “Really, I’ve said it before. If there’s no chance of getting caught, and you’re overly competitive, you’re going to do anything possible to win. That includes using these dangerous drugs because they will give you a performance-enhancing benefit. “We’re hopeful at some point the athletes are supported and given the opportunity to be held to the highest standards. They do it when they’re subjected to the Olympic testing, a year out before the OIympic Games. They’re under our jurisdiction subject to blood testing and out-of-competition, no-notice, no blackout periods for when they can’t be tested. And they fully support it. We’ve never had a player say they didn’t want to be part of the program because of the testing.”
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart says it is not difficult for NBA players to beat the league’s drug-testing program. Tygart told ESPN.com that the NBA’s testing program, which is built on six urine tests a year, is “not at all” tough to beat.
The NBA does not currently test for human growth hormone, although the league and players’ union have said they want to reach an agreement on a testing process. “It’s something we’ve agreed we would do with our union, and we’re waiting to figure out what the appropriate procedures are, Silver said. “Understandably, and I’m sympathetic to the players here, where because it requires the taking of blood, we want to make sure that it’s done in the absolute right way. “To our players association’s credit, that was not a contentious negotiation—on drug testing six times a year, on agreeing to the appropriate procedures.”
While performance-enhancing drug scandals have rocked sports such as baseball and cycling in recent decades, the NBA has mostly steered clear of controversy. And according to commissioner Adam Silver, that’s not an accident. At MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the new boss of the league said he doesn’t believe there is widespread PED use by players. “I don’t have that sense,” Silver said on Saturday, during a panel discussion with author Malcolm Gladwell. “We may be just that we’re fortunate in the NBA that there is a cultural view that those types of drugs are not helpful for performance.”
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As Cuban sees it, though, none of the obstacles should preclude the powers-that-be in the sports world from pursuing more definitive answers about the pros and cons of HGH. “I believe that professional sports leagues should work together and fund studies to determine the efficacy of HGH for rehabbing an injury,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports. “Working together could lead us from the path of demonizing HGH and even testosterone towards a complete understanding. It could allow us to make a data based decision rather than the emotional decision we are currently making. And if it can help athletes recover more quickly, maybe we can extend careers and have healthier happier players and fans.”
“The issue isn’t whether I think it should be used,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports via e-mail. “The issue is that it has not been approved for such use. And one of the reasons it hasn’t been approved is that there have not been studies done to prove the benefits of prescribing HGH for athletic rehabilitation or any injury rehabilitation that I’m aware of. The product has such a huge (public) stigma that no one wants to be associated with it.”
Cuban isn’t advocating the use of the controversial drug but rather calling attention to what he sees as a dearth of research on the topic as it relates to athletes who are recovering from injury. His hope, which he shared in front of the league’s owners and league officials at an Oct. 23 Board of Governors meeting in New York, is that a more-informed decision can be made as to whether it should remain on the league’s banned-substance list or perhaps be utilized as a way of expediting an athlete’s return to the court. If it were ever allowed — and it’s safe to say that won’t be happening anytime soon — Cuban sees a major benefit for teams and their fans like.
Saying ‘mainly NBA players’ is stretching it in the Biogenesis case, but a former Biogenesis employee did say there were NBA players among the many claimed to be involved in the scandal. The NBA says they have not found evidence that any of the league’s players were linked to Biogenesis, and they are leaving it at that. Which has rubbed some people the wrong way who are saying not enough was done to find out. The league is pushing for HGH testing, but we’re a ways away from that becoming a reality in the league. In August, Portland guard Terrel Harris was suspended five games after being found in violation of the NBA’s Anti-Doping Program. Players are randomly tested four times a year during the season and twice in the offseason.
The second issue is that the NFL has yet to come to an agreement on their testing methods, something that Silver sees as a benchmark for other sports. “Because they haven’t reached their agreement on HGH, it would’ve been easier for us, especially with an interim executive director, to fall in line behind them. So I don’t think we’re that far apart.” “I think there’s a philosophical understanding, an agreement between the two parties, that it’s necessary,” Silver added. “(The players) want a level playing field as well. It’s just we’ve got to come together and figure out the right way to ensure the sanctity of the testing.”
NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver refuted a claim in CBS Sports that the NBA and the National Basketball Player’s Association have a long way to go before reliable testing for human growth hormone (HGH) can be achieved, but acknowledged there were still significant hurdles to overcome before anything can be put into practice. Silver says there’s two primary factors holding back the testing. Former executive director of the NBPA Billy Hunter was placed on “indefinite leave” back in February following numerous accusations of illicit behavior, including nepotism, and NBPA attorney Ron Klempner has acted as interim executive director in his place until the NBPA can find a proper director. The NBPA also just recently hired Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul as their union president.
The issue of biological passports — the monitoring of biochemical markers in athletes to detect doping without positives tests for banned substances — has taken a back seat in the NBA’s talks over expanding its anti-drug agreement. The biological passport technique has yet to emerge as a significant aspect of negotiations between the league and union, sources said.
As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the NBA and NBPA appointed a panel of experts to study the issue of HGH testing and report its findings. A person with knowledge of the study told CBSSports.com that the panel’s work is continuing. Among the matters at issue are the proper establishment of baseline levels, the reliability of blood screening for HGH and disciplinary procedures, league sources said.
With NBA training camps set to open at the end of the week, an important order of business remains unresolved: an agreement between the league and the players’ association on a testing policy for human growth hormone. As for outgoing commissioner David Stern’s hope that a plan will be in place in time for the tipoff of the 2013-14 season, prepare to be disappointed. Officials from the league office and National Basketball Players Association met earlier this month in New York to continue discussions on the matter, but a person familiar with the talks told CBSSports.com, “Nothing is anywhere near being agreed to.” The negotiations are ongoing, but the gap may be too wide to close in time for a policy to be in place in time for the start of the regular season.
Much of that talk has centered around the use of human growth hormone (HGH), which is the latest PED sports leagues are trying to combat. That includes the NBA, which is in the process of figuring out the best way to implement HGH testing as part of its drug-testing program. “One of the changes that we know we’ll be making to our current drug testing is the addition of HGH testing, which requires taking blood from the players,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver told The Post last week. “We want to make sure, on behalf of our players, as well, that’s it’s done in the proper way, and that we understand what are the appropriate baselines for a natural substance, like HGH, so we can detect where there are aberrations. That is something we’re very focused on.”
Although the implementation of HGH testing is something that likely won’t be completed until the NBA Players Association has hired a new executive director — something it’s currently in the process of doing it — Silver said he has heard nothing but agreement from the players on the need to ensure fairness for all. “It’s why, even in the collective bargaining agreement, this was not a point of contention,” he said. “Both for the player representatives and the owners who participated, this is an issue where it is in everybody’s interest to have state-of-the-art drug testing, and to have a level playing field for all players, because we recognize it’s not fair for a player to believe that in order to compete, and in order to keep his job, he has to do something that one could potentially harm his body and number two could potentially get him in trouble.”
While there were recent indications the NBA could be dragged into the Biogenesis scandal, a league source says that the evidence it has gathered shows only one NBA player “might” be involved. NBA HQ apparently has been doing its own investigating and is cautiously optimistic that there was neither wholesale involvement nor a big-name player from its ranks.
Hidayet Turkolgu, who was suspended for 20 games for using PEDs said, “I cannot understand who thinks that I used this drugs knowingly when I’m still 34-years-old, had two years of guaranteed contract and I was not playing because of my injury. (…) I don’t believe that I’ll be punished for a second time for one mistake.”
Porter Fischer, a former associate of Biogenesis head Tony Bosch, told The Associated Press on Friday that he fears releasing more names and involving more leagues would further complicate his life. “This whole fiasco with MLB has made me very, very wary about doing this with another agency,” Fischer said. “The way this whole thing has gone down with MLB makes me really, really apprehensive about starting another forest fire with somebody else. I mean, if you were me, would you go pick a fight with somebody else? I’d have NBA fans calling me names, I’d have a whole bunch of high-paid athletes calling me this-that, I’d have other goons at my door.”
Fischer said he and associates have identified athletes from the NBA, NCAA, professional boxing, tennis and MMA, in addition to other professional baseball players who have not yet been identified. As far as he knows, Fischer said, Bosch had no clients from the NFL or NHL.
The man who turned the Biogenesis clinic from a quiet investigation in Miami into a national scandal says there are at least a dozen more athletes whose names haven’t been exposed and that they come from across the sports world. Porter Fischer, the former Biogenesis of Miami clinic employee who turned boxes of documents over to the Miami New Times last year, declined to name the athletes. But in his first television interview, Fischer told “Outside the Lines” that numerous sports had at least one athlete who received performance- enhancing drugs from clinic founder Tony Bosch.
But the union’s interim executive director, Ron Klempner, told CBSSports.com on Tuesday that the search for Hunter’s successor was not impeding discussions on HGH testing at all. “We’re certainly capable of making decisions and doing whatever business needs to be done,” Klempner said. “We’ve been doing that without any interruption and we’re going to continue to do that.”
With Major League Baseball suspending Brewers slugger Ryan Braun for violating the sport’s drug policy — and with more suspensions expected to emerge from the Biogenesis case in South Florida — the NBA’s efforts to implement testing for human-growth hormone (HGH) in time for next season is paramount among the off-court business that will be conducted between now and the ’13-’14 tipoff. “We hope so,” Stern said last Thursday in Las Vegas, when asked if HGH testing protocols could be negotiated with the National Basketball Players Association in time to be implemented for next season. Stern also said the process was “hamstrung” by the NBPA’s lack of a permanent executive director in the wake of Billy Hunter’s ouster over findings that he failed to properly manage conflicts of interest during his tenure. “It’s more difficult to make decisions,” Stern said of the NBPA’s lack of permanent leadership.