TORONTO -- Dick Pound may have thrown the first punch, but players responded with a flurry of haymakers in retaliation to suggestions that more than a third of NHLers were using performance-enhancing drugs.
"Without any testing, I don't know where he gets his results from," said Manitoba Moose captain Mike Keane, 16-year NHL veteran. "Is he guessing? Does he have reports from the past five years? I don't know how someone of that stature can just throw that out there."
Keane wonders why Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, was so vague in his comments to students at the University of Western Ontario Thursday and is positive that steroids are not a problem in hockey.
"I've been around a lot of years," said Keane. "Maybe there were some enforcers who tried it. There is the obvious, John Kordic, years ago but since then the game has been getting better and better."
Moose head coach Alain Vigneault recalled that Sports Illustrated did a big story about players using Sudafed as an upper during his time with the Montreal Canadiens, but noted Sudafed is not on the banned substance list.
Vigneault also said the blanket statement made by Pound was way off base.
"The guys are professionals and are very conscious of the importance of nutrition and supplements," said Vigneault. "They take what is legal and normal and stuff that is being recommended to them by professionals. They eat right, they sleep right. Would it be foolish of us to put our head in the sand and say that nobody is doing it? There is probably somebody (using steroids), but when you make statements like that, you better be able to back it up. Everybody is guilty by association and I don't think that's right."
Toronto Marlies coach Paul Maurice strongly disputed the allegations.
"Our trainers are on top of this and I'll guarantee you one thing, it's not coming in our room," said Maurice. "These guys are so much better educated. If (Pound) thinks there are 30% of players on steroids, he's crazy. There's just no way. There's absolutely no way."
"It's not a problem at all," added Moose centre Craig Darby. "Guys know the issues and what steroids leads to. Guys work at least double the amount in the summertime as they do in the year. I'm sure there were some guys (using steroids) over the years but they're not doing it now. One-third? That's way too much. It's as simple as that."
Moose forward Josh Green was surprised when he saw Pound's statements aired on the highlights Thursday night.
"I don't know if shocked would be the word, but it definitely caught me off guard," said Green. "I don't know where he is getting his information from and I can tell you for a fact that it's not one-third. There's probably a couple or a few but not a third. Obviously, the results will come out when testing begins.
"I know I haven't seen it with any team I've played for in eight or nine years."
Moose goalie Wade Flaherty scoffed at Pound's suggestions.
"I think he's just fishing, trying to stir the pot," said Flaherty, noting he's never seen it in the dressing room during his 17 seasons as a pro. "You want me to take my shirt off and flex, maybe give you a pose? How much it's out there, I don't know. I've been around the game where you took your summers off and started working out in mid-August and got in shape during the four-week training camp. Now you're pretty much working out 12 months of the year."