Mem Cup not 'level field'

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Darryl Smith has been a hard-working forward for three years with the Gatineau Olympiques.

There's only been one time in his major junior hockey career that drug testing hasn't been a reality -- this week at the Memorial Cup in Kitchener.

"There's been more and more talk about it lately and I think it would be good for the game if everyone's being tested," the 21-year-old Smith said. "I feel it would be more fair. You want to know the teams you are playing against are on the same level field.

"That's really what it's all about when it comes down to it."

Drug testing is in place in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. An anti-doping policy has been in effect for the last four years.

But it's not part of this Memorial Cup. The OHL, represented by the Kitchener Rangers and Belleville Bulls, and the WHL, which sent the Spokane Chiefs, have signed off on a policy but it has not been put into practice.

CHL president and OHL commissioner David Branch said a uniform testing policy for all three leagues will start this fall in time for the 2008-09 season. It will be similar to the Quebec league's plan.

The testing will be done under the supervision of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. The centre called the CHL's adopted plan a "comprehensive one."

"We're not doing this to try to catch young men," Branch said yesterday. "We're doing this to educate them. Drug testing will be part of the Memorial Cup next year in Rimouski for the first time."

There is a significant price tag attached to an anti-doping policy and the individual teams will bear the cost of implementing it.

"But it's not a big cost compared to the seriousness of the situation," Quebec league commissioner Gilles Courteau said. "I'm very happy that there will be uniform testing for all three leagues next year. It's a very big step forward for the CHL.

"In our league, we want to create a safe environment and have the players to come in and know what they can and cannot take while they're playing major junior hockey.

"We want it to be clear and leave no doubt what's allowed and what isn't."

It's also important to have testing done at the Cup tournament to show the plan has teeth. If the CHL enforced the policy during the regular season but not at the Cup, that would be like testing during the track and field meet season, but not at the Olympics.

"We're confident in our plan and we're moving forward with it," Branch said.

The QMJHL has conducted 150 tests in the history of its own plan and had one come back positive -- for ephedrine. The league started testing shortly after player agent Gilles Lupien said that about half of the QMJHL's players were using banned substances.

"Test me any time they want," rugged Olympiques defenceman and Los Angeles Kings draft pick Joey Ryan said. "I've been tested once before and it's no big deal. It's not something we think about. It's just part of playing in the league that we do."


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