NBA and NBPA to introduce HGH blood testing next season

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When the NBA and the NBPA signed the latest collective bargaining agreement in 2011, there was an agreement between the two sides that they would eventually revisit the subject of blood testing for human growth hormone in players and agree to a process for implementing it that both sides found fair. That day has come on Thursday.

From the league’s press release on Thursday afternoon:

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced today that blood testing for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) will commence under the league’s anti-drug program, effective with the 2015-16 NBA season.

As part of the collective bargaining negotiations in 2011, the NBA and the Players Association agreed to a process for determining how HGH blood testing would be implemented in the NBA.  With that process now completed, beginning with the start of 2015 NBA training camps, all NBA players will be subject to three random, unannounced HGH tests annually (two in-season, one off-season), and players will also be subject to reasonable cause testing for HGH.

If a player tests positive for HGH, he will be suspended 20 games for his first violation and 45 games for his second violation, and he will be dismissed and disqualified from the NBA for his third violation.

Performance-enhancing drugs have always been the elephant in the room in the NBA. They’ve never appeared as prevalent as they are in, say, baseball or cycling. A handful of players (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and most recently Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes) have been suspended after testing positive for various types of steroids. Commissioner Adam Silver said that the NBA doesn’t have a steroid problem. On the other side, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has come out in favor of the NBA possibly allowing HGH use as long as players were transparent about it.

It will be fascinating to see how many players, if any, get caught under the new policy. The penalties are harsh — 20 games for a first offense, 45 games for a second, a lifetime ban for a third. If the league doesn’t have a PED problem, the new testing policy won’t do much. But if both the NBA and the players’ union want to make sure the league stays clean, it’s a huge step in the right direction.