Steroids never help

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

It won't send ripples through the hockey world the way Jose Canseco's book has affected baseball. But that doesn't mean former minor-league tough guy Dave Morissette should be ignored.

You may have read Morissette's claims that steroids and stimulants are prevalent in pro hockey and helped end his career prematurely.

The revelations are contained in a book the 33-year-old launched in Montreal the other day.

Unlike Canseco, Morissette didn't point his finger at specific players in order to sensationalize the issue.

By all accounts, the guy just wants to let people know what drugs did to him, perhaps dissuading the next young player from taking the same road.

The stories didn't mention this, but Morissette was once a member of the Manitoba Moose.

NOT SURPRISED

And the Moose trainer during that 1996 training camp was Ross Hodgkinson, who's now the head trainer for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and who's been treating pro athletes in this town for the last 20 years.

Hodgkinson says he's not particularly surprised at Morissette's admission, as the 6-foot-1, 224-pound winger obviously believed he needed to get as big and strong as possible to fight his way to the NHL.

But Hodgkinson stopped short of agreeing with the assertion that steroids are common in hockey.

"I would say not very common," he said yesterday. "I would never say it was non-existent. The people who make those blanket statements are pretty naive."

More common in hockey dressing rooms, Hodgkinson says, are the stimulants Morissette said he became addicted to, and which continue to cause him stomach problems in his retirement.

"The players sometimes have a tendency to piggy-back those things," Hodgkinson said. "And there are certain risks associated with that that they're not always aware of.

"Caffeine, Sudafed, ginseng -- you kind of make your own pre-game cocktail. You'd often walk past a locker and you'd see two or three different things ... and if there was something I thought was a concern, I would certainly mention it to the player."

Hodgkinson says players are learning, and abuse of stimulants was on its way down when he worked in the IHL from 1996-2001.

"The stories I heard back when, when guys were taking eight Sudafeds a game, I certainly never witnessed that kind of abuse," he said.

Hodgkinson acknowledges there's likely more steroid use in football than in hockey.

But he's more concerned about abuse in society in general, particularly by high school kids.

"I'd like to believe the people involved in professional sport ... are more aware of what risks they're taking than a kid playing high school football," Hodgkinson said. "Or taking it in high school because they're worried about their self-esteem or want to enhance their appearance, without any concern about the repercussions or risks they might be subjecting their body to."

The bottom line: Hodgkinson has never seen steroids help anybody.

But he's seen plenty of hurt.

"I've seen players who I might have been suspicious of, who've had significant tendon ruptures or problems like that," he said. "Young people don't often take those things into consideration. They all think they're bullet-proof, and they're going to play for 20 years and live till they're 90."

So is it time for drug-testing in hockey, or the CFL?

Hodgkinson prefers education, for starters.

That's probably why he didn't mind talking about the issue yesterday.

It would have been easy to shy away.

"If professional sport has to bear the brunt of the criticism to raise the overall awareness of the problem, then maybe some good will come out of it," he said.

After all, that's what role models are for, right?


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