Hockey dope tests a ‘farce’

MORRIS DALLA COSTA , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

The numbers say it all when it comes to how seriously major junior hockey is about catching drug cheats.

There are about 1,500 players in the Canadian Hockey League annually. Last year, there were 146 drug tests administered during the regular season and playoffs.

The OHL, Western Hockey League and Quebec league administered 36 regular season tests each. When you throw in the testing done in the playoffs that works out for 2.4 tests per team, per year.

Not exactly the Tour de France.

More like the Tour de Farce.

Good luck catching anyone of significance.

Let’s be realistic.

The numbers aren’t significant for a number of reasons and junior hockey, while it claims to take the issue of drug testing seriously, doesn’t.

First of all, the CHL takes its cue from the National Hockey League and the NHL is hardly the poster child when it comes to drug testing.

You’d be hard pressed to figure out what the NHL drug testing policy is.

In fact, while a league like the National Football League does drug testing on players that might be drafted out of university when those players attend NFL combines, the NHL doesn’t require that kind of testing.

Out of sight, out of mind.

When you pair that with the low number of tests in junior hockey ­— none in the off-season — a player can be on the juice or other significant enhancers for a while without getting anywhere near peeing in a bottle.

They might be on the juice throughout the summer months only to be off in time to have if flushed out of their system.

With such low testing numbers, some players may risk the odds that they won’t be caught.

The other reason the testing program is insignificant is born of the attitude taken by junior hockey’s braintrust.

They simply do not believe there are issues with performance-enhancing drugs in junior hockey. As they repeatedly say, hockey is not a sport that relies on bulk and strength.

Back to the Tour de France. No one yet has seen a 250-pound bike rider because those riders rely on stamina, speed and significant cardio-vascular fitness.

Yet despite not being a bulk sport, the Tour was and is rife with athletes who find new ways to cheat whether it’s with designer drugs, blood doping or a variety of other concoctions.

CHL president and OHL commissioner Dave Branch and his cronies in junior hockey may be right, there may not be a problem with performance enhancing drugs in the sport.

Maybe the pimply faces are merely the ravages of puberty and growing up. Maybe.

But believing there is no problem or one won’t develop is ignoring the realities of the pressure, significance and financial gain that fall inside the realm that is professional sports.

If players begin to believe they can cheat to get better and improve their chances of earning a big paycheque without getting caught, that’s what they’ll do.

Junior hockey has the advantage of learning from other sports. Testing procedures are far better now than ever before.

If the problem is, as junior hockey moguls say, insignificant in their sport, the time is right for preventing it from becoming significant.

The numbers of drug tests conducted last year in junior hockey is laughable, a joke really.

Junior hockey needs to increase the number of tests to two, three, four times the number that are conducted now. It needs to do random tests out of season.

It needs to prove to players, coaches and trainers that hockey is serious about the issue.

If they truly are offering more than lip service to preventing the use of performance enhancing drugs, the price needs be paid to prove it.


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