Pound responds to allegations of drug problem in NHL

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Dick Pound probably got a lot of interview requests in the wake of Georges Laraque’s allegations that the NHL has a performance-enhancing drug problem. The former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said the same thing back in 2005.

“Anybody who pays attention to these things already knew that,” Pound told the Canadian Press today. “The only organization in denial was the NHL.”

But whether or not the NHL actually does have a steroid problem still isn’t clear. With all due respect to Laraque, people have written things to sell books before. (Yeah, yeah, they said the same thing about Jose Canseco. Doesn’t make Laraque’s allegations true.)

As for Pound’s assertions, the big question is, where’s the evidence? So far all he’s provided is speculation.

From a 2007 New York Times profile of Pound:

Take the ruckus he caused when he charged that one-third of players in the National Hockey League, or about seven per team, were using illegal performance enhancers. Sitting in his office, I asked him how he came up with that estimate. He leaned back in his chair and chuckled, completely unabashed to admit that he had just invented it. “It was pick a number,” he said. “So it’s 20 percent. Twenty-five percent. Call me a liar.”

Pretty sure “call me a liar” isn’t the best way to prove serious allegations. Nor are conjectural statements like the one he made today: “When you see some of the stuff occurring on the rinks these days, you don’t know whether you’re dealing with people who are playing the game in a steroid rage or not, but some of these head shots are not accidents.”

To be fair, Pound does make a salient point about the current testing regime in the NHL.

“They still don’t test in the off-season,” he said. “If you’ve got an IQ higher than room temperature, you know they can do this program for a number of weeks and have the stuff all flushed out of your system and still get the benefit of it.

“If you know you’re not getting tested before the season begins, it’s an invitation to do it in the off-season.”

The NHL might begrudgingly agree with Pound on that point. Back in June, commissioner Gary Bettman admitted that testing could be better.

“I do believe, and we’ve been in discussions over the last couple of years with WADA, there are ways that we can improve our substance testing, our performance-enhancing testing program,” Bettman said. “But that’s something we need to do with the players’ association, and that’s something, when we actually sit down and begin discussions, we need to address.

“I think we have a good program. It deals with education and counseling. It has comprehensive testing, but I think we can probably do more. At the right time, we’ll have that discussion with the players’ association.”

The NHLPA has confirmed that performance-enhancing steroids will be addressed in the upcoming CBA negotiations.

Hopefully the players and the league can agree on a rigorous testing program, leaving no room for speculation.