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Rep. Elijah Cummings salutes NFLPA for voting to approve HGH testing, new drug policy

Elijah Cummings, shown here during the Brown-Ulman election party in June, applauded the NFL and its players' association for toughening some of its drug policies.
Elijah Cummings, shown here during the Brown-Ulman election party in June, applauded the NFL and its players' association for toughening some of its drug policies. (Karl Merton Ferrron / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings saluted the NFL Players Association for voting to approve a revised NFL drug policy that includes human growth hormone testing.

The NFL Players Association Board of Representatives approved the latest proposal Friday night, but the agreement hasn't been finalized and requires approval from NFL owners.

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Cummings is the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Cummings and Committee chairman Darrell Issa have been meeting with NFLPA and NFL officials for years to encourage them to launch HGH testing.

"I applaud the Players Association and NFL for taking a major step in the right direction towards implementing HGH testing for the first time," Cummings said in a statement Saturday. Testing for HGH will help prevent injuries on the field and send a clear message to young athletes that HGH will not be tolerated at the game's highest levels. I encourage the Players Association and the NFL to iron out the remaining details so that HGH testing can begin immediately."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello cautioned Friday night that nothing has been worked out formally, or otherwise, as far as the league is concerned.

"We have not yet reached an agreement with the union on revisions to our drug programs," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement hours after the players' union made their announcement. "There continue to be significant unresolved issues."

The NFLPA leadership trumpeted the announcement earlier Friday evening.

"This is an historic moment for our Players and our League," NFLPA president Eric Winston said in a statement. "We have collectively bargained drug policies that will keep the game clean and safe, but also provide our players with an unprecedented level of fairness and transparency. Players should be proud of their union for standing up for what was best for the game."

And NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith issued the following statement: "We stood up and fought for what was right. Twenty-five years ago it was NFL players that set out to make the game clean by asking for and collectively bargaining the first drug testing policy in professional sports. Today, this union and these player leaders have approved a policy that will serve the game well for generations of players to come."

Here's a checklist of policy points issued by the NFLPA in a release:

* NEUTRAL ARBITRATION: An Independent Arbitrator will hear appeals for positive test violations of both Substances of Abuse and Performance Enhancing Drug Policies. The NFL and NFLPA will jointly select, approve and pay for retention of 3-5 arbitrators.

* AMENDING MARIJUANA POLICIES: The threshold for a positive test for marijuana will increase to 35 ng/ml from the previous limit of 15 ng/ml. There will be additional steps for players who test positive for the substance before suspensions.

* RETROACTIVITY: Discipline of players for certain violations in the 2014 League Year will have their discipline adjusted by certain aspects of the new policies.

* DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE: Players successfully rejected the league's proposal to issue discipline upon arrest, prior to adjudication. A two-game suspension will be issued upon conviction or plea agreement for violations of law involving alcohol and driving.

* AMPHETAMINES: During the offseason, a first time positive test for amphetamines without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) will now be evaluated under the Substances of Abuse Policy. During the season, a positive test without a TUE will continue to be a violation of the Performance Enhancing Drug Policy

* HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE TESTING:Testing for hGH will occur in the 2014 season. Players have the right to challenge any aspect of the science of the hGH isoforms test. The collection of blood specimens is prohibited on game days.

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* DISCIPLINE FOR BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY: The NFL and NFLPA will have the right to retain independent investigators to review cases where player confidentiality as related to the drug policies has been breached. Employees of the NFL/NFLPA/Clubs, players, certified contract advisors (agents) and policy administrators found to be in violation will face fines up to $500,000 and/or termination or other discipline.

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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