Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a big baseball fan – or perhaps it’s because I’ve been lightly brainwashed by the fascinating documentary “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” – but at some point, the steroid issue started making my eyes glaze over in most sports. Looking at the size of some baseball, basketball or football players, I couldn’t help but wonder; the next thing I knew, I couldn’t help but be indifferent.
Hockey’s a little different for two reasons. One reason is that its players would use steroids in ways that wouldn’t give them Barry Bonds-sized skulls so it’s more difficult to speculate on who might be up to no good. The other reason is that the league rarely ever nabs a player for needle-based tomfoolery.
Former hockey player turned excellent blogger Justin Bourne wrote an interesting piece on steroids in hockey for Puck Daddy today. Here’s a snippet of the article, though I encourage that you read it in its entirety.
It’s a thin line between making it and being a step away – and jumping from the AHL to the NHL “moves the decimal,” as players will say. In simple terms, an NHL contract means 10 times as much money – from the AHL minimum $35,000 to the NHL minimum of $500,000. I’d be lying if I said the thought doesn’t cross my mind: “I’ll take a time machine and a needle, thanks.”
Once a guy says “yes” to “should I do a summer cycle to get strong going into camp?” they only need to figure out answers to a few questions that don’t end in strict enough answers:
How long does it take to get out of my system? If I drink some potion before will it flush my system/mask the drugs during the test? Can I be sure nothing will show? Can someone else piss for me? How close do they watch this? Are they taking blood?
And if you’re not in the NHL, none of those questions matter.
While its not quite on the scandalous scale of Jose Canseco (in the photo to the right) saying he saw Mark McGwire receive shots injected into his buttocks, I’ve rarely heard anyone who involved in hockey discuss the subject of “juicing.” You’d have to think that there are some people doing it in the NHL and beyond by the simple math of the law of averages.
The question is, what would the NHL gain when it comes to increasing testing? Positive drug tests just mean players being suspended, box offices being threatened and PR nightmares set into motion. It’s obvious why the league isn’t exactly tripping over its own feet to strengthen its testing, but Bourne makes the point that such a reluctance isn’t quite right.