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Eric Wood wants HGH testing before NFL stumbles into scandal

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood agrees that only a fool would think human growth hormone isn't being used in football.

HGH would give football players an unfair advantage, and the NFL still doesn't test for it.

"Something needs to be done," Wood told me this week after practice at St. John Fisher College, "because if that many baseball players are doing it in a non-contact sport, I'd image football players are doing it.

"Do I know of any? No, but, uh ..."

Major League Baseball last week suspended 13 players for violating its policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Now Jack Clark, the former All-Star now working as a radio host in St. Louis, has accused Albert Pujols of using PEDs.

Wood, a vocal proponent of HGH testing in the NFL since last summer, has been paying attention to what's happening in baseball and dreads what could befall football.

"What will probably happen at some point, a football player will get caught up in the baseball mess -- maybe the same trainer or something," Wood said. "That will trigger it."

Prominent NFL players such as Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason have advocated HGH testing in recent weeks.

Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston told the NFL Network last month: "The guys that are using it need to get put on full blast."

"It's a lot about morals," Wood said. Baseball players "are taking HGH and becoming great players and making a ton of money. But what kind of example does that show to the younger generation of players?"

The NFL conducts random urine testing for banned substances, but HGH is detectable only with a blood test.

The league and players' union agreed in principle that HGH should be illegal when they signed the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. But they have been haggling over the standards for what would constitute a violation.

The next step is a population study of active NFL players to determine what the threshold for a positive test result should be.

"I don't think the population study, I mean, how do you know players aren't on it already?" Wood said. "Then you test them again?

"Whenever they do it, it has to be right because if there's any way to fight it and win, they'll never catch anybody. I like that they're being thorough with their choice of how to test and when to test because ultimately that's going to be the way to keep it fair."

Wood nodded his head when asked if HGH blood testing should have begun by now.

"You've got to blood test somehow," Wood said. "Do we want to give a pint of blood before a game? No, but I don't think you have to do that. There's got to be a way to do it."

A common refrain heard by any player who supports HGH testing is that it will "even the playing field." Wood used exactly those words, too.

He added that policing HGH usage will help keep other players safe. The NFL is being sued by about 4,200 former players who claim to suffer neurological trauma from football-related concussions.

"Head injuries are getting to be so bad," Wood said, "but you also have players that are bigger, stronger and faster than they've ever been.

"It irks me sometimes when I hear the old guys say, 'The game's getting soft.' I have countless old players that come up to me and ask how much I weigh. 'Oh, 305.' They say, 'Man, I played linebacker at 260.'

"The game has evolved. Head injuries need to be taken serious. If you can manage HGH, which could be allowing players to get bigger, stronger and faster, it'll be good for the game."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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