Wake up and smell the 'roids

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Sure there are bad apples in other sports, Alex Rodriguez being the latest steroid bogeyman.

But NHL people like to brag that hockey players don't use steroids because they're great guys.

NHL types also point out that the league has an excellent anti-drug program and, therefore, steroid use in the league is virtually non-existent.

All of which is a load of bunk. No doubt there are athletes like A-Rod in the NHL.

In fact, expect an NHL player (probably retired and possibly suffering side effects) to come out one day and admit that he used performance enhancing drugs throughout his career -- even during the era of drug testing in the league.

Why? Steroids help athletes enhance performance. There's absolutely no doubt about that. And the NHL drug program has a hole in it big enough to drive a Mac truck through, which basically gives NHL players a free pass to use steroids.

This is from the NHLPA website about the league's drug testing program:

"Following their orientation session on the program, every NHL player will be subject to up to three "no-notice" tests from the start of training camp through the end of the regular season."

From the start of training camp through the end of the regular season, that leaves roughly five months of no testing. Which is a joke. Basically what the NHL program does is give NHL players a free pass to use steroids. Steroids are not the type of drug one would take the day of a game, or the day before a game, to get a boost. Amphetamines and stimulants do that quite nicely.

Steroids are drugs commonly used during training that enable athletes to train harder for longer periods of time, recover faster, and to build strength. By not testing in the off-season, NHL players easily can use such drugs, as long as they stop a few weeks before training camp begins. NHL people like to brag about how few hockey players are using steroids because there are hardly any positive tests. But when there are no tests, there are no positives.

Baseball people used to pooh-pooh suggestions that there was a drug problem in their sport. The same thing is happening in hockey. Every Don, Dick and Harry scoff at suggestions that NHL players would use 'roids. But, the 'hockey players are great guys, so they wouldn't use steroids' defence doesn't cut it. Dr. Christiane Ayotte runs the IOC approved lab in Montreal -- the lab that conducts the NHL tests. Because of that affiliation, she is reluctant to criticize the NHL's drug protocol. But in a perfect world, Ayotte did admit, all athletes would be tested once a month.

"Not that I want to protect my client (the NHL), but I have great difficulty throwing mud at them when I know the situation is far from perfect all over the world (in other leagues)," she said. "(But) from a general point of view, yes, it's always more efficient, or more of a deterrent, if you want to catch potential dopers, to test at all times, even in the off-season.

"Some day athletes will realize that it will be beneficial to show that they are being tested all year long. They won't be blasted (criticized) all the time and suspected of being dopers," Dr. Ayotte said. "It will come some day. We just have to be patient."

In the meantime, it's time for the NHL to take off the rose-coloured glasses.

DAN'S THE MAN

Rookie goaltender Dan LaCosta has been a great story -- an emergency callup from the minors for the Columbus Blue Jackets last week with the news that the club's other rookie goalie, Steve Mason, a rookie-of-the-year candidate, has mononucleosis. Last Saturday, LaCosta beat the

San Jose Sharks in his first game with Columbus this year and then turned 31 shots aside in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

The Russia-based Kontinental League has been promoted as a viable alternative to the NHL for the world's best players. That theory has been taking a bit of a beating lately. There have been numerous reports that players aren't being paid on time, if at all, and now former Ottawa goalie Ray Emery has left his team in Russia in protest, citing salary-related issues.


Videos

Photos