Democrats getting involved in NFL drug-testing

571086.jpg

Democrats getting involved in NFL drug-testing

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three Democratic congressmen are urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the impasse between the NFL and players union on testing for human growth hormone. California Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the committee, and two others made the request in a letter Tuesday to chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as part of their new collective bargaining agreement reached in late July -- but only if the union agreed to the methods. The union has delayed implementing the test, asking for more scientific data to prove it is reliable. "This delay is a cause for concern," wrote Waxman, along with G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Bobby Rush of Illinois, both of whom chair subcommittees on the panel. The lawmakers cited a recent letter to the union and NFL from nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world stating the current test is scientifically reliable; and noted that the test has been used in the Olympics. "There appear to be few questions about the validity of the HGH test," the Democrats wrote. They also noted that CBS football analyst Boomer Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, said that the union is "backing off because they have players guilty of using this substance," and said that many believe at least 20 percent of players are using it. "We hope that this is not the case," the congressmen wrote. "Committee hearings will allow us to learn about these issues, hearing from top scientists about the validity of HGH testing and from the NFL and the NFLPA about the extent of HGH use in the league and their plans for testing to eliminate such use." In an email to The Associated Press, union head DeMaurice Smith said that players' health and the safety and integrity of the game go hand-in-hand. "I applaud the members in their request for a hearing and look forward to fully discussing all of these issues as soon as possible," he said. "We are sending letters to the teams immediately in order to assist Congress in its fact finding mission." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league appreciated the lawmakers' commitment to the issue, "but there should be no need for this hearing if the union would simply live up to its agreements." A spokesman for Upton's committee, Sean Bonyun, said lawmakers on the committee are in bipartisan agreement that "it is well past time for the NFL and Players Union to live up to their HGH testing agreement." "Each day that goes by without rigorous HGH testing tarnishes the image of the NFL and sends the wrong message to the nation's youth," Bonyun said. Earlier this month, the chairman and ranking member of another panel, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, emerged from a meeting with the NFL and players union and announced a deal to begin collecting blood for testing. But the union demurred, and last week, told the NFL to hold off collecting the blood. The union is seeking data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test, so it can compare that data with a population study on football players. The union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels than those of other athletes.

In The Loop: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers

In The Loop: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers

The Blackhawks went 9-1 in February and did so in emphatic fashion.

The Blackhawks outscored their opponents 44-24 in the month and scored four goals or more in each of the nine wins. The only loss came after the team's bye week, a 3-1 loss at home to Edmonton seven days after winning 5-1 in Edmonton.

A big reason for the Blackhawks' recent surge is because of the production of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews scored seven goals and had 11 assists in February and was named the league's second star of the week this week. Patrick Kane had nine goals and seven assists.

Scott Darling went 3-0 in his starts and gave up just four goals in those games. Corey Crawford went 6-1 with a 2.71 goals against average.

Despite the Blackhawks' success in February, the Minnesota Wild still lead the division. The Blackhawks beat the Wild twice in February, but the Wild went 7-2 in the rest of February, including tonight's 5-4 overtime win against the LA Kings to sit three points ahead of the Blackhawks and still with two games in hand.

Watch the video above to see Pat Boyle break down these Blackhawks numbers.

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

The preseason has finished and it's officially a match week for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire, which travel to Columbus on Saturday for the season opener, returned from preseason training in Florida on Sunday and began the team's first full day back in Chicago with the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Monday. The team's players, coaches and staff interact with fans and the media ahead of the upcoming season.

Two players, UNC-Charlotte products Brandt Bronico and Matej Dekovic, were introduced to the audience a couple hours before the club announced the two 2017 draft picks had signed contracts. Bronico, a central midfielder drafted in the third round, and Dekovic, a center back/left back taken in the fourth round, both signed one-year deals with club options for the following three years.

Dekovic could add some much needed depth in central defense, but is a logical candidate to go out on loan to USL affiliate Tulsa. Dekovic, 23, is Croatian and counts as an international player even though he played three years collegiately with the 49ers. The Fire have nine international players on the roster with eight slots for them. The Fire could trade for an international slot, but if Dekovic goes out on loan he won't count against that number. Coach Veljko Paunovic was asked about potential outgoing loans, but didn't give specifics other than to say they have "made some decisions" and "are still working on that."

Bronico and Dekovic don't figure to play major roles this season, but there could still be more moves ahead. The lone trialist in the final week of the Fire's training camp, former Columbus Crew defender Chad Barson, was not retained. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said Ryan Taylor will be the latest right back to join the Fire on trial. Taylor, 32, made 55 English Premier League appearances with Wigan Athletic from 2005-2009 and 61 more with Newcastle United from 2009-2015. This season he has made 12 appearances for Port Vale in England's third tier, the most recent of which on Jan. 20 when he scored a penalty kick.

[RELATED: Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record]

"Ryan Taylor will join us this week," Rodriguez said. "He's a very experienced player, he plays a lot of different positions, which we like. We like that versatility. We love the attitude that he's expressed towards coming on trial, which is not easy for an accomplished player. We'll look at him this week, maybe look at him for two weeks. I don't know how long it will take, but he is an option for us."

The Englishman would also take up an international slot.

A potentially bigger move is the one Rodriguez hinted at regarding a third designated player. Currently, David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic are the Fire's two DPs, meaning one more DP spot is available.

"We have the latitude, we have the cap space, the budget space and the resources within MLS and within our ownership to add another DP," Rodriguez said. "We've looked at a few players. Two of the players that we had on our list, we didn't make offers for so I want to be clear the two players we were tracking, one signed in Mexico with a big club in Mexico and one went to China for big money so they're off our list.

"There are still two players that we're tracking. I think as we get deeper into the start of the season, even though the first window is open, it's tougher. I would say we would likely look at the summer, or, as we did last year, forego the summer and concentrate on January. I still think it's hard to integrate players midseason."