Boosts common - Rocky

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Rocky Thompson says the accusation by Dick Pound that one-third of NHL players are using performance-enhancing substances is accurate - if non-banned stimulants such as Sudafed and caffeine are included.

The 28-year-old tough guy from Calgary knows of what he speaks from first-hand experience within what NHL drug culture there is - Thompson, who played 25 NHL games with the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers 1997-2001, admitted for the first time yesterday to using anabolic steroids in an attempt to retain steady employment in the NHL.

STATEMENT JUSTIFIED

"If you're talking performance-enhancing, and that could be something like Sudafed or caffeine, I believe he's justified in saying that," Thompson told the Sun yesterday.

"There's a lot of things out there that people would consider harmless that are definitely performance-enhancing."

As part of the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement, the league has implemented random testing for several banned performance-enhancing drugs. First-time offenders receive a suspension of 20 games. A second offence would result in a 60-game suspension and a third offence calls for a permanent ban.

Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, says the policy isn't tough enough and said yesterday that one-third of NHL players - an estimate that amounts to 230 or more players - are using performance-enhancing substances.

"I think the average person automatically thinks steroids," Thompson said.

"It could be a number of different things, right? I think he's probably bang-on with his accusation about that. Caffeine isn't banned. That's why I think he's saying the NHL drug policy is a joke.

"A lot of things the IOC adopted as performance-enhancing, the NHL hasn't in their drug testing ... I don't think there's a lot of people using steroids right now because they're testing for it. Not many guys would be that stupid."

A former member of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL who played with the Edmonton Road Runners of the AHL last season, Thompson was drafted 72nd overall by the Flames in 1995.

Thompson said yesterday he used three different steroids - Sustanon, Winstrol and Dbol - the summer before the 2000-01 season, and again after it, while with Florida in an attempt to add more size and muscle to compete with bigger, stronger NHL enforcers.

PANTHERS UNAWARE

He said he obtained and used the steroids on his own during the off-seasons and that the Panthers had no knowledge of what he was doing.

"Two of them were injections and one was oral," Thompson said.

"At the time, there was no rules against it. Just your own personal moral rules. It was all on my own. Nobody would approve something like that."

Thompson, playing with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL this season, went from weighing 200 pounds in his final WHL season with Swift Current to tipping the scales at 215 pounds with just 4% body fat during his time with Florida while taking steroids.

"To me, the temptation of the NHL and all the things that went with it, was too alluring," he said.

"I thought in terms of my safety, too, as another way of justifying it.

"I figured a lot of the other tough guys were probably using it, so, in a sense, I was levelling the playing field because I was a small guy. I thought maybe they might be my size if they weren't using things."

As for how many players in the NHL are using steroids now, Thompson said he could not even offer a guess.

"I have no idea," he said.

"Nobody knew I used them. I got up to about 225 or 230 pounds at one point before I used them, but I was fat. I went back to being a bit lighter, but with no fat, when I was using them.

"There's some obvious cases you could see when guys just put on massive amounts of weight."


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