SUN Hockey Pool

Shame on the NHL

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

Is the NHL's new drug testing program flawed, as many have suggested?

It's not flawed.

Flawed suggests that the program needs tweaking, that it's fundamentally sound.

The NHL's drug testing program is little better than a joke.

As it stands now, the NHL will not be testing for major performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids, during the off-season.

You know how ridiculous that is?

You might as well mail the players steroids when the season ends.

Athletes intent on gaining an edge use steroids and human growth hormone during the off-season to become stronger and faster, in preparation for the rigours of the season ahead. Steroids also enable athletes to work and train longer and recover quicker. Steroids have long been known as training drugs, not the type of performance enhancers used during the season. That's where stimulants, such as amphetamines, come in.

Despite what many apologists in the hockey world contend, steroids are not used just to bulk up. Time and again, hockey "insiders" who have limited knowledge on the workings of performance-enhancing drugs, have suggested that perhaps one or two goons, fighters, in the NHL might use steroids to bulk up. But most athletes on steroids do not use the drugs just to bulk up. Quick recovery and the ability to train long, hard hours is the main reason.

And so, given that, will the NHL and the NHLPA conduct proper out-of-season testing in the future? Don't hold your breath.

"We will continue to evaluate the current program before deciding whether or not any changes are required," Ted Saskin, the NHLPA's executive director, said in an e-mail to the Sun this week.

Continue to evaluate?

Pick up a copy of the 1990 Dubin Report, Ted. Look what is says about the use of steroids during the off-season. Go to any Olympic sport database and research when most steroid users were nailed. In out-of-competition, out-of-season, tests.

Many sport insiders, away from hockey, believe that NHL hockey players also are getting carte blanche in terms of using their stimulants of choice.

Pseudoephedrine, the stimulant found in the cold remedy Sudafed (The NHL's Dirty Little Secret from a 1998 Sports Illustrated article), is no longer on WADA's banned list. Apparently, after years of being deemed performance enhancing, it no longer is. Dr. Christiane Ayotte, who analyzes the NHL's drug test out of her IOC-approved lab in Montreal, for one, was extremely disappointed when the stimulant was removed from the WADA list. What a happy coincidence that pseudoephedrine was removed from the WADA list just as the NHL finally was implementing a drug program.

"I was strongly opposed to this," Ayotte told the Sun of the decision to remove pseudoephedrine from the WADA list, adding that she still believes the drug to be potentially dangerous. Ayotte insists there are "less potent" stimulants still on the banned list.

So let's get this straight.

This new NHL program does not test for steroids out of season, the time of year when athletes intent on becoming quicker, faster and stronger, use them. The program also does not test for pseudoephedrine, the stimulant found in the hockey player's best friend, Sudafed.

Exactly what is the point of this program?

Did somebody say public relations?


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