Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight Committee requested NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the head of the players association to appear before Congress to explain the delay in implementing testing for human growth hormone.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, the committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, and its top-ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, wrote that the league had hoped to begin testing by the first week of the regular 2011 season. Instead, the two sides have become bogged down in a battle over the test itself.
"We believe the league and its players remain best positioned to implement an HGH testing regime, but concerns have been raised about the status of these efforts," according to a joint statement by Cummings and Issa.
In addition to Goodell, the committee sent letters to DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association and Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The goal of beginning HGH testing was part of the agreement inked Aug. 4 to end this year's lockout and was hailed at the time as a model for other sports. Since then, Goodell has leaned on the players union, suggesting that it is delaying the program's implementation. The association has raised concerns over the accuracy of the test.
Fourteen members of Congress, including North Carolina Democrat and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, signed a similar letter this month. But the oversight committee's interest gives added heft to the inquiry because of the panel's past probes into doping. And while committee leaders have only requested Goodell, Smith and Tygart to appear, the panel could use its subpoena power if they decline.
"The purpose of this meeting is to understand the concerns of the players and the league and to strongly convey our universal interest in protecting the health of millions of younger athletes across the country," the joint statement read.