No blood tests, says players' union  

Brent Read  

From: The Australian  

March 04, 2010 12:00AM  

THE Rugby League Professionals Association is ready to block any attempt by the NRL -- or the game's international body -- to introduce blood sampling as a regular part of its drug-testing procedures.  

RLPA chief executive David Garnsey yesterday told The Australian there was not enough evidence to support widespread testing for human growth hormone (HGH), which can only be detected by blood testing. 

The issue has come to prominence following the suspension of former Britain hooker Terry Newton, who was banned for two years after becoming the first athlete in the world to test positive to HGH from a blood test. 

While the NRL is monitoring developments, Garnsey said: "My medical advice is to the effect that it is not a compelling issue at the moment because (a) there is no evidence players in the game are taking (HGH), and (b) that even if they were, they would need to be taking an anabolic steroid with it to have any effect. 

"If they're taking the steroid that would turn up in the urine test. At the moment we're comfortable. We're not complacent about it, we're monitoring it. But we don't see any reason to do it, particularly because of the intrusive nature of blood tests." 

The test for HGH is available to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) but it is rarely used on rugby league players because it is expensive and requires a blood sample. 

It is not part of the 600 additional tests paid for by the NRL, and carried out by ASADA, each year. Nor do the clubs test for HGH as part of the NRL's in-house testing policy. 

The NRL would be unlikely to introduce blood testing unless it had the RLPA's support. 

"It's something the players aren't used to and would no doubt be concerned about," Garnsey said. "At the moment the medical reasons are suggesting overwhelmingly there's not a need to do it. The other aspect is Terry Newton, who has been tested, was caught by way of a target test because there was suspicion about him. 

"It's always available to ASADA to do that here if they have some suspicion about a particular player. We understand that, we recognise that. We don't necessarily say that's a bad thing." 

Garnsey also dismissed a push from England to have blood sampling to be introduced for the Quad Nations tournament, to be held in Australia in October-November 

"That doesn't seem to have been reasoned through on the basis of need, it seems to be based on this one test," Garnsey said. 

"That's not enough for us."