With the seemingly endless supply of performance-enhancing drug related stories coming out of major league baseball on an annual basis, as well as different drug use popping up in other major sports, are we naive enough as hockey fans to believe that there is that little use of PED’s, or is it the testing program that is not strong enough to catch the users.
Baseball seems to have more than its fair share of stories, and the US government seems to have targeted baseball for their past quests to out the steroid users, while football basketball and hockey seem to fly under the radar.
Dating back to 2005, when IOC member Dick Pound suggested that up to 1/3 of NHLers were using performance enhancing drugs of some form or another, people scoffed at the notion. Since the NHL instituted its drug policy, only 1 player has been suspended from action for the use of performance-enhancing drugs – Sean Hill who played for the Islanders in 2007.
The league drug-testing program has been accused of being lackluster at best. Off-season testing, which is when most of the PED users would be using, during training for the upcoming season, is limited to 60 tests LEAGUE WIDE. And that figure is a maximum, not necessarily the number that are actually completed. Sixty tests on over 700 eligible players, or less than 10%.
I don’t know for sure how many tests were actually completed in the off-seasons, but even if all 60 were done, that is still a relatively small sample size.
It is very difficult for me to believe that the use of PED’s (of which one of the more prevalent substances, Human Growth Hormone [aka "HGH"] is not currently tested for, but that is another issue altogether) is that low that in almost 7 years of testing leads me to believe that the system is flawed and that both sides (the NHL and the NHLPA) are not taking the issue seriously. The system is the bare minimum, and seems to be in place just because it is the right thing optically, and not necessarily designed to catch offenders.
This also doesn’t even address the issue of recreational or prescription drugs that can become addictive, where the system might be failing players who need it most, as was addressed by Travis Yost on Hockeybuzz.com a few days ago.
I don’t want the use of PED’s to come to the forefront in hockey, but given the risk/reward and the millions of dollars at stake, it is almost impossible for me to believe their use is not more widespread than the “drug testing” of the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse has unearthed.
By sweeping the issue under the rug, the NHL is setting itself up for a scandal, and it will raise eyebrows, if not send shockwaves through the sport. It might not be today or tomorrow, but a Biogenesis-type scenario where allegations are raised without a positive drug test will happen at some point.
We are naive to think otherwise.