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Pound responds to allegations of drug problem in NHL

Nov 7, 2011, 5:49 PM EDT

Dick Pound Getty Images

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.

  1. jpelle82 - Nov 7, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    ever since the shake-up in DC back in the spring of ’10 the Capitals were in the spotlight regarding steroids in hockey. a plain admission to authorities that he was selling roids to players went almost un-noticed. this should have been a much bigger story. a busted roids dealer doesnt hold too much credibility in my book anyway but there has been an eerie coinciding drop off in ovechkin’s performance since the bust….just sayin’.

    • stakex - Nov 7, 2011 at 11:10 PM

      Ovechkin was never one of the Capitals that was seen by Nagel (Matt Bradley, Eric Fehr and Shaone Morrisonn were his patients)… so its kinda childish to link Ovechkins slump last year to the bust that occured when there is zero proof to support it.

      Ovechkins problems last year seemed to stem from three things:

      1. Bad luck. When his goal slump started last season he hit several posts, and had a couple goals waved off in a few game stretch. Those helped keep his drout going, and it proved to be hard to break.

      2. Bad summer conditioning. Ovechkin clearly wasn’t in great shape entering last season. I know the conspiracy theorist out there would try to link that with Nagels bust… but without any evidence (theres not even circumstancial evidence) thats foolish. Its far more likely Ovechkin simply got lazy in the offseason.

      3. Overall downtrun in Caps offense. Last year the Caps were not the power house they were in years past, and the who team saw a scoring drop off. This was helped by a very in-effective power play, which certainly contributed to Ovechkins down numbers.

      4. Injuries. Its known that Ovechkin had at least one injury (wrist) that he had to deal with for a while last year… and its possible there were more.


      Add all that up and there is plenty of reason for his fall off last year. The ohter thing to consider is that IF Ovechkin (or any other player) was in fact getting steroids from Nagel… they would simply have gone elsewhere after he was busted. Everyone knows the NHl testing policy is a joke, and no one is going to stop using just because there doctor was caught.

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