NFL officials met last week with representatives of the World Anti-Doping Agency at the WADA offices in Montreal, writes Mark Maske of the Washington Post. A wide range of topics were discussed, including testing for human growth hormone and the implications of the “StarCaps” case.
“This was part of an ongoing effort to strengthen our relationship with WADA and find ways we can work together,” said Adolpho Birch, NFL vice president of labor policy and player development. “We’ve done it before.”
“First and foremost, we want to maintain a strong and effective policy that has the full support of our players and our union,” Birch said about the two decade old NFL-run steroid-testing program in cooperation with the players’ union that has been praised by Capitol Hill lawmakers as being the best in professional sports. “That is our primary goal. We’ve had some issues in that respect, and we are looking at every opportunity to ensure our policy is meaningful. But our first priority is certainly to come to an agreement with the union.”
In regards to blood-testing of players for HGH, Birch said meetings with WADA left him convinced that such a process could be implemented effectively.
“I am increasingly comfortable it could be done in a way in which any difficulties would not be too onerous,” Birch said. “It could be done.”
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Below is a complete transcript of Adolpho Birch’s interview with Mark Maske.
NFL VP OF LABOR POLICY AND PLAYER DEVELOPMENT ADOLPHO BIRCH
Interview with Mark Maske, Washington Post
June 22, 2010
On when the meeting with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was held:
Adolpho Birch: It was the middle of last week. It was in Montreal. Their offices are located there.
On the nature of the meeting and what was accomplished:
This is part of an ongoing effort on our part to strengthen our relationship with WADA and really learn ways in which we can work together, ways in which we can collaborate on different issues that affect both of our policies and our respective organizations. We’ve done it before. I’ve been up there many times, but this was the latest in that effort on our part and theirs.
On whether the commissioner was involved this year:
No – last year.
On whether the meetings with WADA will occur once a year:
No, I wouldn’t say that. We just hadn’t had the opportunity to meet since the last meeting last year, but we’ll probably meet more frequently than once a year.
On what issues were discussed in the meeting:
Generally speaking, we looked at the state of testing and particularly the HGH testing. We were able to get a lot of good information on how their testing has been going in that area, some of the updated science, facts, research in those areas, and logistics. A lot of things give me a greater level of comfort as to how the testing in that area can be implemented on our end.
We talked a little about some of the other pending issues such as Star Caps to really update them on what that case means from our perspective. They understand the importance of the uniformity in the policy so they are supportive in that respect. We updated them on where we were on that issue.
The other things we talked about were the ways to collaborate, whether it be on educational projects, pilots, or research—ways in which we could really take advantage of the strengths of both organizations to make an impact, whether that be with our respective athletes or youth and young athletes in particular.
On whether WADA’s recommendations on HGH testing will influence what the NFL proposes when it negotiates with the players:
I wouldn’t want to go into detail, but I will say that I am increasingly comfortable that the difficulty of implementing a system would not be particularly onerous and that it could be done. I think we could do it with relatively little adjustment or disruption.
On whether the possibility was discussed of WADA or a government agency administering the NFL’s drug policy:
First and foremost, we want to maintain a strong and effective policy that has the full support of our Players Association and our players. That remains our target and main objective. But as you discussed, we’ve had some issues with respect to the support of our program from the Players Association and I think in that respect we are looking at every opportunity or every way in which we can assure everybody that is a fan of our game that our program is effective and meaningful. To the extent that we have to look at options that can help us get to that, we’ll do that. But our first priority is certainly to come to an agreement in the way we have over the last couple of decades, and get ourselves back to a policy that we are all comfortable with, we all understand is important, and reflects what we think need to be the values of our game.
On whether WADA or government testing was discussed in this meeting:
That might be a detail I’d probably prefer not to go into.
On whether this meeting was simply designed to discuss the possibility of WADA testing:
The meeting was designed to continue an ongoing relationship with WADA to discuss matters of respective importance to our organizations and to really continue to build a relationship. We do think that’s an important relationship for us to have. They think it’s an important relationship for them to have. So in terms of specifics of an agenda, no, that topic would not have been the focus.