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NFL: HGH Testing, Raising Threshold for Marijuana

The NFL and the players’ union are close to finalizing the drug policy changes they tentatively agreed upon last week.

Union spokesman George Atallah told The Associated Press on Monday that the “drug policies are currently getting finalized.” League and NFL Players Association attorneys and officials are reviewing the documents and could approve them this week.

One key element is how the changes affect players currently under suspension, including Denver receiver Wes Welker (four games) and Browns receiver Josh Gordon (entire season). Their bans would be reduced, and the union wants to see that happen before Week 3 games are played.

Welker was suspended for amphetamine use in the offseason, but punishment for that is being switched from the performance enhancers policy to the substance abuse program – except for in-season violations.

Hours after the union voted Friday to accept the NFL proposal on changes that included HGH testing, the league said it was not a done deal. Further discussions have taken place since then.

Player representatives to the union also voted for changes to marijuana testing, classification for amphetamines, punishment for driving under the influence, and neutral arbitration on appeals.

Testing for human growth hormone was originally agreed upon in 2011, but the players have balked at the science in the testing and the appeals process for positive tests. If the proposal they voted on Friday is put into action, testing would begin for this season.

The player reps also approved an increase for the threshold for positive marijuana tests. Some players have complained that the NFL threshold of 15 nanograms per milliliter is so low that anyone within the vicinity of people smoking marijuana could test positive. The threshold was increased to 35 ng/ml in the league’s proposal.

A two-game suspension would be issued for a player convicted of driving under the influence. But an NFL proposal to immediately suspend a player, owner, coach, team executive or league employee for a DUI arrest was rejected by the union.

The players approved arbitration for appeals under the substance abuse and the PED policies. The NFL and NFL Players Association would hire between three and five arbitrators.

The league and the union also would retain independent investigators to review cases in which player confidentiality under the drug policy had been breached. Punishment for leaks could range up to $500,000 and/or termination of a job.

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