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Players' union head says NFL's HGH testing being held up by disagreements over appeals process

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - When the Super Bowl ends, three complete seasons will have come and gone without testing for human growth hormone — even though the NFL and the players' union originally paved the way to check for that drug in August 2011.

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said Thursday that HGH testing is still being held up by a disagreement with the league over whether the commissioner or a neutral arbitrator will handle certain types of appeals.

The union wants someone other than Commissioner Roger Goodell to rule on cases that involve violations of the law or demonstrated use of a performance-enhancing substance without a positive test.

"We believe that neutral arbitration ... enhances and strengthens our system," Smith said at a news conference.

Otherwise, Smith said, "The HGH policy's done. It's been done. The drug policy overall is 98 per cent done."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said another outstanding issue is whether a second offence will draw a suspension of eight or 10 games.

"When there are continuing new demands (from the union), it is hard to get an agreement," McCarthy wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

The 10-year collective bargaining agreement signed 2 1/2 years ago contained language that would allow for HGH testing once certain provisions could be settled.

On other topics he was asked about Thursday, Smith said:

— the NFLPA hasn't seen a proposal from the league about expanding the number of teams in the playoffs and won't take a position on the issue until that happens;

— the union and league have had "preliminary discussions" about the possibility of eventually allowing players to use marijuana for medicinal purposes;

— the union is "nearly done" with its investigation into whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leaked information about quarterback Josh Freeman being in the NFL's substance abuse program;

— he would "love to see a requirement that makes any player who wants to be eligible for the (NFL) draft ... have had a mandatory number hours in financial literacy";

— he supports plans to form the first labour union for college athletes.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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