Bridging the dope gap

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

Dick Pound envisions a day when all professional leagues follow the anti-doping policies of the Olympic sports, namely a two-year suspension for a first offence, a lifetime ban for a second.

But the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency realizes that's a tough sell.

"We could probably talk them into the (banned substance) list and good testing programs, and so on," Pound said. "The thing that worries them, if they were to go the full World Anti-Doping Code direction, is the sanction period. They just don't want to lose somebody for two years for a little thing like drug use."

Pound, though, says that's the direction the pros must go if they take the issue of drug use seriously.

In an interview with the Winnipeg Sun, he proposed a "bridging period" of up to 10 years, allowing the four major sports to firmly establish their drug policies.

"I could live with that," Pound said. "So whoever's in the system now doesn't face this. But people coming into it at the other end ... they know the deal is if you get caught and there's no extenuating circumstance you can point to, it will be two years."

Under its current policies, the NBA is the most lenient, with suspensions of five games for a first steroid offence, 10 games for a second and 25 for a third.

Offenders in Major League Baseball are looking at suspensions of 50 games, 100 games and life. Sort of.

"Bud's got his 50, 100, three strikes you're out," Pound said, referring to commissioner Bud Selig. "Except you're not really out for life. You can come back after two years, and if the commissioner doesn't let you back in, you can grieve it. But it's progress."

The NHL's program is similar: a lifetime ban for a third offence, with an opportunity to appeal for reinstatement after two years.

Pound acknowledges fans have likely become numb to the whole issue.

Some might not even care -- they just want to watch their heroes perform wondrous feats, juiced or not.

But he says the issue goes much deeper than a needle in a millionaire ball player's arm.

"They are the guys that are out there day after day ... in the public eye," Pound said. "And if the message is that not only is it tolerated in the professional leagues, but that it's a prerequisite to get there, that spreads down to triple-A, to double-A, to single A, to college ball, to high school ball.

"And all of a sudden, instead of 500 or 600 professionals at the top, earning a living, fully informed, you've got a pyramid, the base of which might be hundreds of thousands of kids."

Add football, basketball and hockey to the mix, and the numbers are staggering.

That's why Pound won't back off until the pros get on board.

"They're starting, kicking and screaming," he said. "But they're going to get there, one way or another."


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