January 11, 2012
NHL drug use on Pound's radar
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
LONDON, ONT. - More than six years ago, Dick Pound spoke at the Western law school and sent the hockey world in a tizzy.
He said one-third of all NHL players are on performance-enhancing drugs.
The former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency doesn't expect to create the same kind of stir Monday when he appears as the keynote speaker at the Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction.
But even though the NHL has implemented a drug testing policy since that time and Pound believes it's better than nothing, he still thinks it falls far short.
"(The NHL) is finally doing some testing, but it never made the program public, so it's hard to tell whether it's serious and/or effective," Pound said.
"At least it's got away from (NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) saying this unbelievable thing that nothing on the WADA list would help a hockey player, therefore hockey players don't take any of the, therefore there's no point in testing for them. It's absolutely jaw-dropping in its profundity.
"It doesn't catch many players because when and what it tests for are nowhere near the stringent measures needed to catch cheaters."
Then again, Pound isn't only dumping on the NHL. He believes most professional sports don't take their drug-testing policies seriously enough.
Pound said one reason more NHL players aren't caught is because there is no out-of-season testing, so that players know they use the drugs leading up to the season and get it out of their system before they are subject to testing.
"And they don't test for stimulants which is the drug of choice for hockey players," he said.
The NHL doesn't test for a lot of drugs on the WADA list.
Pound's comments gained renewed attention with the publication of former NHLer Georges Laraque's book saying use of performance-enhancing drugs in the NHL was common.
Despite the accusations, not many NHL players have been caught.
"The only surprise is that a player is prepared to come out and say it," Pound said. "Usually, they get the (Jose) Canseco treatment that he's some kind of fruit loop and doesn't know what he's talking about. It's always much harder on the whistle-blower than the bad guy."
Pound's speaking engagement at the London dinner is going to be different.
Pound is still a member of the WADA board.
He is usually busy advocating drug enforcement for athletes, taking to task sports, especially professional sports, for their weak performance-enhancing drug policies and urging athletes to play clean regardless of what those around them are doing.
And although talk about drug testing and enforcement is likely to come up at the dinner, it won't be the main thrust.
"Definitely not," Pound said. "It's a sports celebrity dinner and it's tied in with more inspirational stuff, making the best of what you have, overcoming adversity, that type of thing."
But he knows that given his well-known reputation for taking up the cause regardless of whom he's up against, he will forever be linked to the issue of $performance-enhancing drugs.
"It's a life sentence," he said laughing.
But he isn't laughing when he talks about the problems of catching drug cheats in professional sports because many players, owners, executives and player unions aren't anxious to make drug-testing a priority.
Losing players to long suspensions is not in the best interest of hockey teams, but Pound doesn't put all the blame for toothless drug-testing policies solely on the owners and management of professional sports.
One of the big obstacles is players' unions, Pound said.
"When you think of players and their union, they should be thinking, 'We shouldn't have to do this to ourselves in order to succeed and if some of our members do, they are basically stealing from the rest of it because they get the multi-$million contract and we get what's left.' It's like a steel town union - anything that the public or management wants is wrong."
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POUND ON OTHER PRO SPORTS
He calls it probably the cleanest. "They operate on a different kind of behavioural code, call penalty strokes on themselves."
"Doesn't have one that's worth the power to blow it to hell. They have so many other problems that drug use is way down the list."
"They finally got to the point of having semi-meaningful sanctions, but they don't test for half the stuff that's being used. They've got a whole bunch of lawyers running around casting doubt on HGH (human growth hormone) testing. If you want something to grind to a halt, don't get scientists involved, get lawyers."
"They simply announce they have the gold standard in (testing for) substance abuse problems and everybody says, 'Oh yeah, OK.' But if you look at the folks that are out there on Sunday afternoon, it isn't all from eating poutine."
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IF YOU GO
What: London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction; Raises money for Thames Valley Childrenís Centre
When: Monday, Jan. 16, 5 to 10 p.m.
Where: London Convention Centre
Tickets: $150/adults; $75/students
Contact: Bud Loughlin 519-657-6005
For more information about the event, please contact Jackie Prince at: 519-685-8675 or firstname.lastname@example.org