Galea case could lead to HGH testing in NFL

Santana Moss was reportedly asked about treatments Dr. Anthony Galea gave him.
Santana Moss was reportedly asked about treatments Dr. Anthony Galea gave him.

The news that Dr. Anthony Galea faces charges for smuggling and distributing human growth hormone has prompted many to conclude that the case will produce negative consequences for the NFL.

Already, Redskins receiver Santana Moss has been implicated in the investigation. Galea’s assistant allegedly had HGH in her possession when she was arrested last September on the way to Washington, where Galea was planning to meet Moss and treat him for an injury. Moss reportedly was getting HGH from Galea.

And Moss probably wasn’t the only NFL player getting HGH from Galea — especially because the NFL doesn’t test for HGH.

On the surface, the situation has the potential to create a major embarrassment for the league, especially because the media and fans seem to have a heightened sensitivity to performance-enhancing drug use in football after the Brian Cushing suspension — and the clumsy PR effort aimed at exonerating him. But this could actually end up being good for pro football.

The NFL wants players to be tested for HGH. The NFLPA has resisted. And the Galea case shows the honor system isn’t working.

The problem can be attributed to the nature of collective bargaining, in which neither side thinks about the greater interests of all parties. Instead, if one side "wants" something, the other side will make that concession only if it "gets" something in return.

So while the health and well-being of the goose that lays the golden eggs may require ensuring that the egg-producing operation isn’t being enhanced by banned substances, the process will prompt the union to create leverage by digging in against HGH testing until it can get something of value at the bargaining table.

The opposition to blood testing for HGH remains unclear. Every Sunday, football players strap on the armor and head into battle, where blood is often shed. Why, then, do they hide under the bed when faced with the prospect of having their fingers pricked?

It all comes back to leverage. And since the current bargaining process contains a complex stew of issues and conflicts, the union understandably will resist the NFL’s requests whenever possible.

But the players’ position gets weaker as evidence of abuses mounts. As a result, the Galea case could place more pressure on the NFLPA to finally agree to HGH testing.

The pressure may come in various forms — from the media, from fans and potentially from Congress. Regardless of their motivations — and of responsibilities that may be more pressing — federal lawmakers routinely show an interest in cleaning up messes that the folks responsible for public activities such as pro sports refuse to clean up on their own.

So far, the NFL has successfully avoided federal oversight of its drug-testing program, and the Galea case might not be enough to finally prompt Congress to stick its nose deep into the situation. But Congress could do enough to make the NFLPA realize that leverage needs to take a back seat to doing the right thing. Without HGH testing, there is no real deterrence to its use. So players will continue to use HGH, resolving the moral dilemma by reasoning that everyone else is using it, and by realizing that they’re unlikely to find another job that pays as well as the NFL.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Santana Moss was reportedly asked about treatments Dr. Anthony Galea gave him.
Santana Moss was reportedly asked about treatments Dr. Anthony Galea gave him.

The news that Dr. Anthony Galea faces charges for smuggling and distributing human growth hormone has prompted many to conclude that the case will produce negative consequences for the NFL.

Already, Redskins receiver Santana Moss has been implicated in the investigation. Galea’s assistant allegedly had HGH in her possession when she was arrested last September on the way to Washington, where Galea was planning to meet Moss and treat him for an injury. Moss reportedly was getting HGH from Galea.

And Moss probably wasn’t the only NFL player getting HGH from Galea — especially because the NFL doesn’t test for HGH.

On the surface, the situation has the potential to create a major embarrassment for the league, especially because the media and fans seem to have a heightened sensitivity to performance-enhancing drug use in football after the Brian Cushing suspension — and the clumsy PR effort aimed at exonerating him. But this could actually end up being good for pro football.

The NFL wants players to be tested for HGH. The NFLPA has resisted. And the Galea case shows the honor system isn’t working.

The problem can be attributed to the nature of collective bargaining, in which neither side thinks about the greater interests of all parties. Instead, if one side "wants" something, the other side will make that concession only if it "gets" something in return.

So while the health and well-being of the goose that lays the golden eggs may require ensuring that the egg-producing operation isn’t being enhanced by banned substances, the process will prompt the union to create leverage by digging in against HGH testing until it can get something of value at the bargaining table.

The opposition to blood testing for HGH remains unclear. Every Sunday, football players strap on the armor and head into battle, where blood is often shed. Why, then, do they hide under the bed when faced with the prospect of having their fingers pricked?

It all comes back to leverage. And since the current bargaining process contains a complex stew of issues and conflicts, the union understandably will resist the NFL’s requests whenever possible.

But the players’ position gets weaker as evidence of abuses mounts. As a result, the Galea case could place more pressure on the NFLPA to finally agree to HGH testing.

The pressure may come in various forms — from the media, from fans and potentially from Congress. Regardless of their motivations — and of responsibilities that may be more pressing — federal lawmakers routinely show an interest in cleaning up messes that the folks responsible for public activities such as pro sports refuse to clean up on their own.

So far, the NFL has successfully avoided federal oversight of its drug-testing program, and the Galea case might not be enough to finally prompt Congress to stick its nose deep into the situation. But Congress could do enough to make the NFLPA realize that leverage needs to take a back seat to doing the right thing. Without HGH testing, there is no real deterrence to its use. So players will continue to use HGH, resolving the moral dilemma by reasoning that everyone else is using it, and by realizing that they’re unlikely to find another job that pays as well as the NFL.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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