STEROIDS, PEDs AND HOCKEY: A Primer
After this week's moronfest that was Mark McGwire's confession that he used steroids while hitting record amounts of home runs, while claiming he would have hit them without steroids, there has been talk of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), and what the next bombshell will be.
Hockey has actually been fairly immune to any steroid controversy, up until this point. While baseball had Jose Canseco, admitting his own use and naming names of star players (none of whom have turned out to be innocent), hockey's main confessor has been Dave Morissette. Morissette played 11 games with the Montreal Canadiens. That is part and parcel of his NHL career.
What Morissette did, though, was write a book, titled Mémoires d’un Dur à Cuire (Memories of an Enforcer), which came out in 2005. He confessed his own steroid use, but said the league's biggest PED problem was stimulants.
It's been fairly well-known that over-the-counter stimulants have been prevalent in NHL locker rooms for quite some time. While players can use Sudafed or Ripped Fuel (both contain ephedrine) in order to give them a lot of jump while they're out on the ice, there's been little discussed outside of Morissette's book, and that was basically dismissed by both players and officials.
Occasionally, it will pop up, like when Richard and Sandra Thomas were arrested for possession of anabolic steroids with intention to sell and deliver, and they said they were supplying the Washington Capitals, among other teams. Donald Brashear was on the Caps at he time, and he said he was unaware of any steroid use by any players.
Former NHLer Eric Cairns was asked a few years ago about steroids. His reply :
“You just can’t be bulky and be a hockey player,” said Cairns. “I think they’ll put something about testing into the new [CBA] when they get that done.”What is the NHL's testing policy, you ask?
They will test players during the regular season. That's it.
During the playoffs, when games come every other night for 6-8 weeks, if you're lucky enough to get that far, it takes superhuman recovery abilities to perform at the top of your game after grinding through an 82-game regular season. With absolutely no testing in place, the entire league is on the honor system. Is it realistic to believe that 100% of NHL players are going to be honorable with so much at stake, knowing there's a way to gain an advantage with absolutely no repercussions?
Who has been caught? Other than Sean Hill, who was caught and suspended for 20 games while playing with the Islanders during the 2006-07 season?
This is a league where goalies have sewn netting between their legs and made the Hall of Fame (Tony Esposito), players have been caught with illegal curves on their sticks countless times, and playing outside the rules (under the role of "Agitator") is generally accepted.
The league needs to get serious about this, before the shoe drops and someone better known than an enforcer who was up for a cup of coffee or a journeyman defenseman gets nabbed. They need to get serous about steroids, and get stimulants out of the game as well. The NHL isn't successful enough to withstand a drug scandal.
When it happens, the NHL, its owners and players can't say they weren't warned.