Today in sports: the NFL Players Association cops out on testing for human growth hormone, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped in Venezuela, and the NBA lockout talks are riding a "wave of optimism" as they head into the evening.
- With Congress demanding answers as to why the NFL Players Association hasn't been testing players for HGH like they promised they would under the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement, the union has gone ahead and unveiled a testing program that covers a much narrower scope than the two sides agreed to. The program, revealed on an NFLPA owned web site as a faux-press release is downright dishonest, says Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. "[It] badly distorts the language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, creating the false impression that no agreement on HGH testing has been reached," which will only exacerbate the fundamental lack of trust between the parties" over drug testing. Plus, Florio argues, Congress will see right through it, and be forced to put players "under oath to find out the extent to which HGH is being used." [PFT]
- Defrocked American Tour de France champion Floyd Landis has been given a 12-month suspended sentence by a French court in Nanterre after he was convicted on charges he hired a hacker keep tabs on an anti-doping lab. Despite a year-long investigation by French authorities, they couldn't determine if it was Landis, his former coach Arnie Baker, or one of the three other defendants who ordered the hack on the lab that unmasked his cheating in 2006. The French are blaming their inability to find the smoking gun "on a lack of cooperation from U.S. authorities." [ESPN]
- Close to 112,000 people own 4.75 million shares of stock in the Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned franchise in pro sports. That number will increase next week when the team holds just the fifth stock sale in its 93-year history. The Packers first sold stock in 1923 for $5-a-share to a thousand people. This was followed by offerings in 1935 and 1950. The most recent sale was back in 1997, when the team raised $24 million to renovate Lambeau Field. Those shares went for $200 a pop, but it's expected the 2011 price will be around $250, since the team is eyeing another $140 million renovation to their historic home field. [Bloomberg]
- Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped from outside the front door of his home in Santa Inez, Venezuela on Wednesday night. Venezuelan ballplayers and their families have increasingly been targeted as the country's kidnapping rate has exploded over the past decade, going from 52 reported kidnappings in 1998 to 618 in 2009. Distressingly, the abductors haven't made contact with anyone to demand a ransom. The Venezuelan government pledged today that its "top investigators" would work the case. On Thursday, they found what they believe to be the kidnappers' abandoned vehicle. According to Venezuelan Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami, it's "a very important find." In a statement, Major League Baseball let it be known the league's "Department of Investigations" is coordinating the investigation with the Venezuelans. [AP]
- NBA players and owners are still meeting today in the hopes of negotiating an end to the league's lockout, even though commissioner David Stern's drop-dead, take-it-or-leave-it deadline for the union to accept the league's terms came and went at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Is this progress? Possibly. Sources close to the negotiations tell ESPN.com's Henry Abbott that "both sides know the final agreement will be" an even 50-50 split of basketball income, despite posturing on both sides that they were holding out for 53%. So there's "a wave of optimism" in the room tonight, but obstacles remain. Stern is said to be concerned that he may not have the votes to get a deal approved, because "rival factions" of owners have formed during the lockout, some of which have the numbers to sink a deal. Players and owners meanwhile continue to haggle over "various restrictions and penalties that owners continue to insist on to regulate teams that stray into luxury-tax territory," in the hopes of reigning in spending from big-market teams like the Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks. [ESPN]