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HGH Testing Is Coming To The NFL. But When?

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Many think the NFL is ready for comprehensive HGH testing. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.
Many think the NFL is ready for comprehensive HGH testing. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

The NFL and its Players Association reportedly hit a snag on Thursday when trying to finalize the final stages of a deal that would see HGH testing in the league. Despite the snag, at some point in the near future, we should see some comprehensive testing come to the league. Some players have described the use of performance enhancing drugs in the league as “rampant,” and even Adrian Peterson says he “can’t wait” for testing to come to the league. What does this mean for the 49ers? Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been shy about his feelings about the use PEDs, so there obviously has been a standard set within the organization.

When Bruce Irvin was suspended for four games for testing positive for a banned substance in May, Harbaugh came out and made his feelings well known. Since 2011, Seattle has had five players suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. “Play by the rules,” Harbaugh said. Part of his response may have been to fuel the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry and his own personal competition with Pete Carroll. However, he undoubtedly was sending a message to his own team. Former Niners linebacker Larry Grant was suspended in April for unknowingly taking a substance, and new cornerback Eric Wright was suspended in 2012 for a similar violation. However, the NFL has never had great transparency when it has come to suspensions.

In addition to having a problem with HGH, the NFL also has to do something about Adderall. Many of the banned substance suspensions have supposedly come as a result of the “study drug.” Whether or not Adderall should be on the banned substance list is a debate for another day, but it doesn’t look like the Niners will tolerate anyone abusing PEDs on their team. Obviously, the league would come down hard on any player caught using, but would the 49ers levy additional penalties on any of their players? While Harbaugh isn’t adverse to the tough love approach with his club, I doubt San Francisco would suspend or fine a player anymore than the league has done.

Therein lies a bit of a dilemma for the coach. I believe no player is above using PEDs in this day and age. Any edge a player can get is usually worth the risk, especially in the days before the new HGH testing. No matter the relationship the coach has with his players, Harbaugh may not know if one of his guys is using. If anyone, from Patrick Willis or Colin Kaepernick down to the last man on the roster is caught, the media backlash facing Harbaugh will be brutal. For someone who is already pretty flippant and Belichickian in his dealings with the media, one can only imagine how he’d field questions about a positive test by a Niner.

With Eric Wright being the only current 49er connected to a positive test, which may or may not have been Adderall, there’s not really much we can speculate about any other players. While I haven’t done the proper research, I’d speculate to say that the majority of suspensions for PEDs have come from the offensive and defensive lineman. The guys in the trenches have to be massive, both in girth and in strength. They’re always looking to add mass. So, if the Niners were to theoretically lose anyone on the line, there would certainly be questions along both fronts. The Niners’ offensive line is regarded as a top-5 group in the league. Each member played all 16 games in 2012. If a backup such as Adam Snyder or Daniel Kilgore were asked to fill in, it would undoubtedly be a downgrade.

Likewise, on the defensive line, the Niners have standout performers in Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. While there could more of a rotation this season, rookies Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are returning from offseason surgeries and seem destined for the PUP list. The defensive line would take a hit if it lost anyone, as the depth would then come into question. The 49ers would then ask guys like Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie, among others to step up and play a few more meaningful snaps.

While that was just pure speculation, the specter of increased PED suspensions hangs over the entire league. If the NFL and the NFLPA can’t come to an agreement soon, the leagues’ franchises may have another year to clean up their teams. But, that’s simply delaying the inevitable. Comprehensive testing is coming, and the consequences could have a significant impact on the playoff races. Jim Harbaugh thinks the 49ers are ready. Is the rest of the league prepared?