Major League Baseball fans should be readying themselves for the smell of hot dogs and popcorn. Instead, they’re being forced to endure the stench of more steroid talk. Say it ain’t so, A-Roid!
This week I’ve heard several Canadian analysts wonder why baseball gets such a hard time and the NFL, with its hulking 400 pound linemen, gets a pass. Excellent point. You hear players get busted all the time for steroids. They get 4 games but zero stigma.
Yet most are skittish about discussing the possibility of steroid use amidst Canada’s great sporting cash cow – the NHL. When it is discussed, the opinion is almost universal. No one believes the league has a serious problem with performance enhancing substances. The reason commonly given is that hockey players don’t benefit that much from it.
I don’t buy that. If you have a player blessed only with smarts, agility and fine hand-eye co-ordination, he might have an outside shot at the NHL. Steroids won't enhance those skills. But you've got to have either speed or strength too. Preferrably both. Ben Johnson was the poster boy for speed and strength.
Dick Pound is the former president of the World Anti Doping Agency. In 2006, not long after former Sens’ draft pick Bryan Berard tested positive for a banned substance, Pound openly criticized the NHL testing process. He said players can easily beat the system if they’re given tons of notice as to when the testing will happen.
"People use the [steroids] in the summer time. They receive the benefits of it but then the stuff's out of your system by the time you come to be tested," Pound said. "And if they say one of your two tests is going to be at training camp then all you do is stop doing things a month or three weeks ahead of time."
Berard wasn’t even suspended by the league because it was not an NHL test. It was an Olympic test. Thus, he was suspended for 2 years from international play.
Pound is now out of WADA and out of the NHL’s hair. I hope the league is super clean. I do. But until the NHL hires an outside group to conduct all tests in a 100 per cent surprise manner, I don’t think anyone should feel comfortable announcing that it's not a problem.