Laraque: NHL has a steroid problem

Georges Laraque speaks to the media in Brossard, Que., Jan. 21, 2010. (QMI Agency)

Georges Laraque speaks to the media in Brossard, Que., Jan. 21, 2010. (QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:47 PM ET

Former NHL tough guy Georges Laraque fought many battles in his 12-year career, including one against the use of performance-enhancing drugs, he says in his not-yet-released English-language autobiography.

"Quite early in my career I started asking the NHLPA to take action against all the performance-enhancing drugs some players would use to become bigger in order to stop feeling the pain," Laraque writes in The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, excerpts of which were printed in the Toronto Star.

"The job was hard and harsh enough not to have to compete against 'killers' swollen with steroids. The NHLPA listened to me, but refused to take any action on that front, for obvious political reasons. They wanted to keep drug testing as a card in their negotiations with the league."

Laraque, who racked up 1,126 penalty minutes and 131 regular-season fights during his time in the NHL, says some enforcers in the league used drugs to numb the pain. He also describes some of the telltale signs that players were using these substances.

"Even more than steroids, some other drugs would really make fighting even more dangerous for the clean ones like me. Substances like ephedrine, for instance, totally desensitize the player who takes them," Laraque writes. "Before a game, as I would warm up on the ice, I would always look at the tough guy on the other side. If his arms were trembling, if his eyes were bulging, I knew for sure he wasn’t going to feel any of the punches I would give him. Totally anaesthetized, his face sweating despite the thick film of Vaseline he’d covered his face with, I knew the guy would be able to take a lot more hits than his fair share."

The use of PEDs isn't limited to tough guys, says Laraque. His allegations include the use of drugs by some of the NHL's elite. He also offers a clue: watch players during Olympic years.

"First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held," Laraque writes. "In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form."

Laraque also adds: "Most of us knew who they were, but not a single player, not even me, would ever think of raising his hand to break the silence and accuse a fellow player."

The fight against PEDs must continue, says Laraque, and he wants the hockey world to take a more proactive approach to preventing their use.

"In my final years in the NHL, the league finally decided to set clear and precise rules against the use of any performance-enhancing drugs," Laraque writes. "I was relieved, and found it funny how much weight some players had lost in just one year.

"Nowadays, the fight has moved to another level. Hockey, as well as any other sport in the world, has to take action against the human growth hormone that players have been using for a couple of years now."


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