WOODLAWN, Md. --- One of the hundreds of high school students attending an assembly Monday about the dangers of performance-enhancing substances wanted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to answer this question:
Why is there more drug use in baseball than football?
Goodell began his response this way: "I'm not sure that's true."
While making sure to emphasize that he believes the NFL's drug-testing program is a strong one, Goodell acknowledged that it can be improved, and he said the league will insist that its next labor deal with players includes testing for human growth hormone.
"We'd be naive to think that people aren't trying to cheat the system. But we have to have the best testing program to be able to offset that," Goodell told reporters after joining Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, to speak to area students at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County.
"I made it clear to the kids in the room today that the integrity of the NFL is critical, and we need to make sure we're doing everything possible to have the best drug program in sports," Goodell said. "Making changes to our program is critical and we have done that over the years. We need to do more, including the inclusion of HGH testing."
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.
HGH use is prohibited by the NFL, but the league's old collective bargaining agreement did not have testing for it. Goodell said he thinks players "recognize the importance of" adding HGH tests.
The NFL Players Association has opposed blood tests in the past but did say last summer it would be open to hearing a proposal from the league during CBA talks. Goodell said HGH was "part of a broader proposal on where we go with our drug program."
CBA negotiations broke off March 11, and the old deal expired. The NFLPA said it would no longer function as a union, and a group of players filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota.
Asked whether owners have decided under what rules the league would operate if the injunction is granted, Goodell said: "We're prepared for every outcome. I can promise you that. And we don't believe this is an issue that should be decided in court. This is an issue that should be decided at the bargaining table."