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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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In Sports

The NBA hopes to begin testing for HGH next season. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

NBA looks to level the playing field with HGH testing


Marquis Daniels couldn't hide it. Not with his eyes rolling up to the ceiling of the Cousins Center, or the little curl of a smile.

A 10-year NBA veteran of over 600 regular season and playoff games, it may be cliché to say he's seen it all since joining the league in 2003 - but in one specific instance he feels he has - the unnatural modification of certain players in the league during his tenure.

"As in 'He's gotten bigger, faster?,'" he asked.

Then, that little smile.

"Yeah, you see it."

When asked if he thought NBA players have used performance enhancing drugs, he only smiled. When asked if he thought it wasn't as rampant in the NBA as opposed to the other professional sports leagues, again, he only smiled.

"You see it, but we're just athletes out there playing," he finally allowed. "But you don't want no one to be having a big advantage over you because they're taking something."

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, the NBA subjects players to six urine tests a year, two of which occur during the offseason. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is on the list of banned substances for the league, but blood testing is currently not allowed.

That may change, however, and as soon as next year.

It's an important step for a league that has often been criticized for how lax its testing standards are.

"They've tried for a few years now to make the drug testing a little tighter around the league," said Bucks player representative Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. "You can see every year they add substances they can test for and this year they added a lot more substances. Some things like Tylenol you can't really take anymore without a prescription."

Mbah a Moute continued: "The league has been trying to get tight on the substances and the testing and it's a good thing. Trying to keep the game clean and make sure guys are performing to their abilities and not because they're taking something extra. For me, personally - I speak for a bunch of players, too - I think it's a good thing that we have those policies. Really, you're a basketball player. You need supplements of course but you don't need to take any banned substances to perform."

Since 2000, eight players have been suspended by the league for being caught using a banned substance, the most notable being O.J. Mayo in 2011. Orland Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu was suspended 20 games this season for testing positive for an anabolic steroid.

While critics feel that the league's testing policy allows for cheaters to get away with using PEDs, some players feel it's more of a signal that players are not using them and respecting the testing process.

"Guys in the league have been doing a good job as far as not getting to that extent as far as taking banned substances and different hormones. I think it's good," Mbah a Moute said. "That also has to do with the policy the league puts in place with suspensions and fines and just implementation and information, the way they give out information and make sure they stay on top of guys so guys know what's banned, what's not banned. They're informed so they can go talk to their trainers about taking this and that."

That said, players in the NBA look around at the troubles Major League Baseball and its union have faced regarding testing and the wide assumption that players in the NFL are artificially enhanced and say they don't want that perception tainting their sport.

"I think we don't want to be there – it's a bad situation. It's bad for the sport, it's bad for the fans," Mbah a Moute said. "It's not good to be in a situation where they feel the sport is corrupted. We don't want to get there and I think that's one of the reasons why the league is being tighter with the policies."

It's why the league will likely follow suit with MLB and approve a blood test for HGH as soon as next season.

"We're kind of taking something from each sport, whether it's HGH, the bargaining agreements, whatever it is we're taking a piece," Daniels said. "I think with HGH, we should test for it. Obviously it gives some players advantages but if everyone was doing it it'd be a different story. If someone is using that just to get an advantage, I don't think it should be allowed in the game. That's just my personal opinion."

That little smile, along with a shrug, returned.

"Some guys get a lot bigger, quicker, faster, stronger, but you know, to each his own."

This process has been an interesting one for rookie John Henson, who enters professional athletics at a time when nearly every player in every sport is cast under a cloud of suspicion. He's one that feels PEDs wouldn't help a basketball player advance basic skill sets like dribbling and shooting, but allows that testing for everything will only help the game.

"It's not good for the sport so it's something they need to do," Henson said of HGH testing. "That's the era. They say everybody's doing it and 'I just got caught' type thing. Now they're testing for it, you're not supposed to do it and I hope no one does."


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