Report: NHL to implement comprehensive cocaine testing by end of season

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Sounds like the NHL is close to taking a major step forward in addressing cocaine use among players.

Per TVA, “all of the NHL’s drug-testing” will include cocaine screening by the end of this season. Currently, roughly one-third of the yearly samples taken as part of the program — designed to test for performance-enhancing drugs — are checked for “drugs of abuse.” (Per TSN)

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Cocaine use among players has been a prominent topic over the last 12 months. The possession arrests of both Ryan Malone and Jarret Stoll made headlines and, in early October, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged a rise in positive tests.

“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.

“I’d be shocked if we’re talking about a couple dozen guys. I don’t want to be naïve here … but if we’re talking more than 20 guys I’d be shocked. Because we don’t test in a comprehensive way, I can’t say.”

Currently, the NHL has a four-stage substance abuse program. Stage One is for players that volunteer for treatment, and aren’t suspended while participating. Stage Two is for players that violate the first stage, and are suspended without pay while undergoing treatment.

Stage Three is for violators of the second stage, and carries a minimum six-month suspension without pay. Stage Four is for violators of the third stage — it carries a one-year suspension without pay, and the player’s reinstatement is at the discretion of the NHL and NHLPA.

Related: Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs