Drug debate hits the NHL
Jim Christie's story in today's Globe and Mail on the performance-enhancing drug brouhaha is notable for a few things, but I'll let a snippet from the story do the talking:
Of course, the idea that players take 'Sudeys' is hardly a new one; a few news sources have done the 'dirty work' of uncovering this not-so-secret drug use in hockey.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail's Grant Kerr, former NHLer Garry Valk said 80 per cent of players stoke themselves with pseudoephedrine before a game. That's 16 players in a 20-man dressing room. Vancouver Canuck Markus Naslund cited the use of the caffeine drink Red Bull and coffees before games by players.
Valk, now a TV commentator, said he would be “shocked” if a third of hockey players were actually on banned substances, but added: “You know, probably 80 per cent of players take Sudafed prior to a game. I'd like to know exactly what substances [Pound] is talking about.”In September, 2003, pseudoephedrine and caffeine were removed from the list of banned substances that would result in an athlete being suspended from international competition.
What is interesting, as Globe columnist Al Maki points out in the story's companion piece, is that the league saw fit to bite back at WADA head Dick Pound so forcefully when, according to the league and NHLPA, it has no such problem to worry about.
Maki's column isn't posted online (or at least isn't yet at this early hour), but the thrust of what he says is that Pound is making the accusation that the league has a drug problem in order to get the NHL thinking about the issue. From all of the press coverage it's received lately, it seems Dick's plan has worked.
A quick note to end on here, as I liked this bit of colour from Christie's piece:
Many players felt that if Pound's allegation were construed to mean steroid use, it was way off-target.Although, the flipside of that argument is to look at a guy like Buffalo Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters, who went from a size smaller than Staal in junior hockey to his current, 247-pound state. Of course, Peters admitted in the offseason he 'unknowingly' used a steroid supplement in the past, but he's certainly not the only case of a player who has 'hulked out' on his way to the NHL.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal, who stands 6 foot 4 and weighs 205 pounds but can be charitably described as lanky said: “I've never seen anything [of banned drugs]. If you look at my body, there's no chance of me being on steroids.”