NBA players agree to drug testing, HGH still unclear
NBA players have agreed to additional drug testing, adding off-season screening for performance-enhancing drugs only.
Union executive director Billy Hunter sent a memo Wednesday, obtained by The Associated Press, to players detailing these and other changes of a new labour deal and recommended they ratify the agreement.
Less clear is a provision for human growth hormone testing.
According to the memo, an NBA-NBPA joint committee would study the "possibility of an HGH testing program." NBA spokesman Mike Bass, however, insisted both sides agreed to HGH blood testing, subject to the process being validated by a "neutral committee of experts."
It wasn't immediately clear who would be on that panel.
Major League Baseball and its players recently agreed to start HGH testing in spring training. The NFL's new labour contract included a provision for HGH testing as soon as this season — but only once the NFLPA approved the process. That hasn't happened, in part because the NFLPA says it needs more information about the test itself.
No matter what, players will face additional testing if the deal is ratified. According to the memo, beginning in the 2012-13 season, players can be tested up to two times during the off-season for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs only. They would not be screened for drugs such as marijuana.
Previously, the NBA did not test players during its July-September off-season. The memo said a majority of players will be tested no more than four times throughout an entire year, and that no tests could be given at the arena on the night of a game.
Players began voting electronically on the deal Wednesday night and could vote through Thursday afternoon, when owners will hold a meeting in New York to vote. If the deal is ratified by a majority on both sides, the NBA fully reopens for business Friday with the beginning of training camps and free agency.
Owners and players reached a tentative agreement on the main issues Nov. 26, and owners soon after opened up the arenas so players could begin workouts without coaches present. In the meantime, lawyers for both sides continued to negotiate a lengthy list of "B-list" items right into Wednesday.
Items agreed upon, per Hunter's memo:
— A joint NBA-NBPA committee will discuss the age limit, which for now remains 19 years and one year out of high school.
— Players with 3 years of service or less may be assigned to the NBA Development League, with no limit on the number of assignments. No player with more than three years of service may be assigned to the D-League without his consent.
— There will be a neutral review of any fines imposed by NBA Commissioner David Stern for players' on-court actions.
— Upon request, a player will wear a microphone for one nationally televised game per month, one locally televised game per month and up to two playoff games per round. The player must consent before the content can be aired live and can't be subject to discipline for content captured as a result of wearing a microphone.
— Neither the league nor a team may discipline a player solely based upon an arrest.
The division of basketball-related income and numerous issues related to the salary cap system were the biggest obstacles to reaching an agreement. Players were guaranteed 57 per cent of BRI in the old deal but will receive 51.15 per cent this season and will earn between 49 and 51 per cent during the remainder of the deal.
In giving up the guarantee, transferring about $250 million per year to owners, players were able to maintain the current soft salary cap system that allows teams to use exceptions to exceed the cap, rather than the hard cap the owners sought.
"Although the players made significant financial concessions, including taking a reduced share of Basketball Related Income, collective salaries will nonetheless increase over the course of the CBA, the players retained important system issues, and achieved gains on non-economic issues," Hunter wrote in the memo.
If the agreement is ratified, a 66-game schedule will begin on Christmas. Players will receive a prorated portion of their 2011-12 salaries.