SUN Hockey Pool

Pees 'n' thank you

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Andrew Ference wasn't taking any chances.

National Hockey League players have been fair game for random drug tests since Sunday but the Calgary Flames defenceman subjected himself to the process with a pre-emptive strike.

Energy or vitamin supplements are part of many pro athletes' training programs.

A tainted batch from a shady company has the potential to create false positive results, so Ference needed to give himself a little peace of mind.

"During the summer for my training, I use the same gel that they use on the Tour de France and stuff like that," said Ference yesterday after the Flames' off-ice training session. "Just to be sure, a couple of months ago, I did my own test. I got clearance from the company and all that but just to be completely 100 percent sure, myself and a couple of guys just went and did it by ourselves. Put ourselves at ease."

The results came back clean and Ference has no fear should his name be called by the NHL testers.

"Now it's like, whatever, bring it on," he said, admitting while steroids are not a problem in hockey, supplements can be worrisome.

"Guys aren't on steroids, shooting needles and stuff like that. But those little gel packs or a little protein powder a guy might take, that's the stuff you've got to be worried about," said Ference.

"If you're with a bad company or a bad batch that isn't reliable, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble. You're going to test positive and it'll come out in the media you're on such-and-such a drug. People won't realize it's just from a protein powder or something like that."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who underwent testing along with teammate Robyn Regehr yesterday for next month's Turin Olympics, sees the NHL's new drug policy as a positive if for no other reason than to silence skeptics such as World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound.

"Steroids aren't prevalent in the NHL and, if there are any questions, they'll be answered," he said.

Jason Wiemer said he expects Pound, who made waves by suggesting as many as one-third of the league's players use performance-enhancing drugs, to eat his words if the results are made public.

"He's going to have a lot of egg on his face when the results come out," said Wiemer.

The NHL and its players agreed on the drug-testing program last summer as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Players can be tested at practice -- not before or after games -- randomly twice a season for substances such as anabolic steroids and growth hormones.

The punishment for a first positive test is a 20-game suspension. A second will result in a 60-game suspension and a third results in a lifetime ban.

Ference says he's happy his sport has adopted the program.

"It should be in every sport because the guys who are honest work their (butts) off all summer, all year, to be where they're at," he said. "It's an honour to play in the best league of any sport and if you're cheating to get there, I don't want to play against that guy. It's not fair.

"Cheaters should be caught and cheaters should be punished."


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