Roids in the Rink?

(Editors note: I had this saved and in the queue for today, and was just going to wait and publish it until Tilt'd's post had some more airtime. But The Big Wyshynski just put this up so it seems like I should publish it now.)

This blog post was brought to you by: Jibblescribbits and the letter "A"

Talking about steroids in hockey is an awkward subject simply because it's rare for hockey players to ever get busted for steroids, which is in large part because the NHL is probably cleaner than some other sports, so it makes it easier for the people to write it off with the mythology of the hockey player as all around good guy.

But baseball's problem wasn't only that players used steroids but that everyone, fans, media, management, turned a blind eye to steroids and wrote the initial problems off as isolated incidents. There were rationalizations, such as (obviously paraphrasing):
Steroids will only help sluggers, but position players that rely on agility and defense wouldn't gain any benefit from Steroids.
... Baseball writers got caught up in the mythology of baseball as this pure pastime instead of seeing that the players would do anything they had to to hold onto their lively hood.

I see bits of that attitude in hockey reporting as well, and Adrian Dater offered up some of that in his latest blog post.
Baseball hitters need one big burst of power to succeed. Hockey players need to do a lot of different things over a three-hour period, and a lot of extra weight and muscle could be a hindrance to a goal-scorer. A fighter is a different case, but the NHL has an anti-doping policy, and nobody wants to be in the headlines, a la A-Roid.

He's got a point, but one of the main reason's steroids are so widespread in baseball is because they help the body recover from injury a lot faster. This kind of benefit is ideal for a hockey player that ends up playing in a grueling 82 game season full of bumps, bruises, sprains, and of course muscle damage. At the end of the day hockey players are still fathers, husbands, brothers and sons all trying to make life better for their families. It shouldn't be inconceivable that an honroable hockey player would turn to steroids to try and extend his lucrative career to try and keep that professional income for just one more year. Don't forget that most of the players busted for steroids in baseball were journeymen pitchers trying to hold on to a roster spot. Sean Hill was busted, and Alexei Cherepov was also on steroids (apparently pressured by his KHL team) when he died.

That being said the NHL has one tremendous advantage over baseball, and that is the widespread Olympic participation (which, to his credit, the Master Beater mentions as well) . The Olympics have the strictest testing around and only one player that I can remember, Jose Theodore, was ever busted, and that was for Propecia (which is a common masking agent).

Gary Betteman has been a pretty poor commissioner, but I'm all about giving credit where credit is due. Steroids are not a problem in the NHL and that's a testament to his, and the Player Associations willingness to institute a decent doping policy, which are outlined here.
Lets hope the NHL continues to stay a step ahead so that steroids don't become a problem. This is truly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


  1. Until they go to a third-party lab whose results aren't influenced by the almighty dollar (and that would include off-season testing), claiming there isn't a problem is like saying the American economy is small problem.

    Players can use steroids all summer and go into the "recovery" portion of the programs which allow for the 'roids to be filtered out by the body long before the regular season starts.

    Drug testing needs to be random ALL SEASON LONG without interference from the NHL or NHLPA. Only then can the NHL claim it is clean.

    I do believe, however, that steroids aren't a problem for the most part. I think "uppers" are still used widely by some marginal players, though.

  2. Great point about the curative properties of steroids. The word itself has become stigmatized, but the truth is that steroids are found in many of the products in your own medicine cabinet.

    I think it should be emphasized that Cherepanov was not taking steroids because of pressure from his KHL team, but rather that the team doctors were administering steroids to him as part of their treatment of his heart condition.

    Dr. Batushenko and Dr. Belkin have since been banned from the KHL for their part in covering up Alexei's condition, and for not consulting with a cardiologist about their choice of treatments.

  3. I'm sure no sleight towards Cherepanov was intended, but I wanted to make sure that it was known that the decision to administer steroids in his case, was neither his own, nor related at all to enhancing performance.

    Great read. Anytime you have something this timely and pertinent (read: 99% of your pieces), I don't want to be forced to have to wait to read it. I appreciate the chance to have my fluff piece at the top of the page, but by holding off on a real item you are effectively burying today's lead.

    PD ended up adding a link to this piece, but only after having buried his own article. Time to take those kid gloves off and slap this rookie around with 'em. ;-)

  4. This is a subject I wrote about in 2005

    The main benefit to hockey players is muscle recovery, especially over a long and grueling season. The word 'steroid' has lost a lot of its meaning as the Mainstream mediots and general public just continue to trot out the line that it's something that makes you into The Hulk (rage and all).

  5. I followed the link from PD.

    I think steroid use in hockey is as bad as other sports, and maybe that's just the cynic in me, but like in the other comments the key here is the restorative properties and I can't imagine that come playoff time there isn't some temptation to use something to "get healthy".

    I don't know the frequency of Olympic testing but players could easily be off the roids before testing begins for the Olympics and no one has mentioned HGH which as far as I know is still undetectable in standard testing.

    I guess before the NHL throws some stones they better check their own house first.

  6. @ Patrick:

    Olympic testing is pretty strict, and I believe that Olympic testing begins around the time of Olympic qualification. I think that starts 2 years prior to the Olympics.

    That being said I'm sure there are ways around it, and I'm sure there's more guys out there using it than we want to believe.