ASHBURN, Va. – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league wants to test players for human growth hormone "to protect the integrity of our game."
In an interview with The Associated Press while riding with former NFL coach and TV broadcaster John Madden on the Madden Cruiser between visits Wednesday to the Ravens and Redskins training camps, Goodell called the HGH issue a key element of ongoing labor negotiations involving owners and the players' union.
"It's very important. It's about the integrity of the game. It's about player health and safety," Goodell told the AP. "It's about making sure that we're doing everything to protect our players and to protect the integrity of our game."
He later made similar comments while speaking to a group of reporters at Redskins camp.
The NFL currently does not test for HGH, but its use is prohibited, and the league has suspended players and an assistant coach based on other proof that they had used the substance.
The NFL has told the players' union it would like to add HGH to the list of drugs in the league's testing program. The union has opposed blood tests.
"We think it's important to have HGH testing, to make sure we ensure that we can take performance-enhancing substances out of the game. Unfortunately, the only way to test for that, on any reliable basis right now, is through blood testing," Goodell said.
"And if your objective is to take it out of the game," he added, "that's the only way to do it. ... That's why we proposed it."
Told of Goodell's comments Wednesday, the NFL Players Association replied via e-mail to the AP that it would "stick to" an earlier statement from director of player services development Stacy Robinson, which read in part: "The NFLPA along with the NFL has supported research to find a suitable test that will detect sustained HGH use. ... We believe in and collectively bargained for a system that supports the testing of all banned substances. We look forward to discussing the NFL's proposed blood testing program in CBA meetings."
Preventing athletes from using HGH is considered a key target in the anti-doping movement. The substance is hard to detect, and athletes are believed to choose HGH for a variety of benefits, whether they be real or only perceived — including increasing speed and improving vision.
Last month, Major League Baseball implemented random blood testing for HGH in the minors, making it the first U.S. professional sports league to take that aggressive step against doping. Baseball was able to impose that on players with minor-league contracts because they are not members of the players' association, which means blood testing is not subject to collective bargaining.
During his appearance at Redskins camp, Goodell said NFL staff contacted Santana Moss about the Washington receiver's connection to a Canadian doctor charged with smuggling and supplying HGH.
Moss has told teammates he received treatments — not involving banned substances — from Dr. Anthony Galea.
A U.S. criminal complaint filed in May charged Galea with conspiracy, smuggling, unlawful distribution of HGH and introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce.
Tiger Woods is among the athletes who have acknowledged being treated by Galea. Woods has said he met with federal authorities investigating the doctor.
"We're following it. It's obviously part of an overall criminal investigation that we obviously are cooperating with and following very closely," Goodell said. "Certainly when a determination is made, then we'll determine our next step."
Asked about a possible suspension for Moss, Goodell said: "I like to know the facts first."
On Wednesday, Goodell met privately with Redskins players — as he does at each of his training camp visits — but said he did not talk to Moss.