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NHLPA: ‘Definitely a problem’ with IOC’s testing process

Feb 23, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

Mathieu Schneider, Ron Hainsey, Steve Fehr AP

You can add the National Hockey League Players’ Association to the list of those displeased with the Nicklas Backstrom situation.

After details behind Backstrom’s failed substance test and subsequent gold medal game ban were revealed, NHLPA special assistant Mathieu Schneider expressed major concern with IOC testing.

“There’s definitely a problem with the process,” Schneider said, per CP. “The process was flawed. The damage was already done for Nicklas.”

A quick rundown of the issues stemming from the Backstrom situation:

— He was tested on Wednesday, Feb. 19, following a quarterfinal win over Slovenia, then played in Sweden’s semifinal win over Finland on Friday, the 21st. News of the failed test and ban came on Sunday, the 23rd, approximately 2.5 hours prior to puck drop for the Canada game.

— Backstrom tested positive for 190 mg of Pseudoephedrine, 40 mg over the legal amount. The Pseudoephedrine came via an allergy medicine Backstrom has been taking daily for the last seven years (which would include the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver). The NHL issued a statement saying the drug was “neither prohibited in the NHL nor was used in an improper manner.” Sweden’s team doctors and officials said they were aware of Backstrom using it.

— Backstrom’s team, the Capitals, issued a similar statement saying they were aware of him taking the medication this season, also confirming the medicine was approved by the Swedish national team.

— In explaining the late announcement of test results, the IOC told the IIHF medical chief that it had “a lot of tests going on.”

In light of all this, there will now likely be another big set of questions to be answered when the discussion turns to NHL participation for the ’18 Winter Games.

Olympic participation has always been somewhat contentious, given four different organizations — the NHL, NHLPA, IOC and IIHF — all want input and a say in decision making. While the four parties were able to come to an agreement to send players to Sochi, one wonders if they’ll have similar success finding common ground for Pyeongchang, especially given all that’s transpired over the last two weeks with player injuries, outspoken anti-Olympic owners and, now, the Backstrom incident.

  1. 127taringa - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Please say good-bye to the IOC. I hope that the NHL and the PA get the Hockey World Cup going and do a really good job. They should be able to provide a better product. The only thing the IOC/IIHF have going for it is Olympic brand. The Soccer World Cup is a better model to follow.

  2. joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Schneider may have a case. But! Why wasn’t the NHLPA aware of the problems with respect to the testing process before Sochi? Is it not your responsibility, as part of the union management to be aware of such policies so you can appropriately advise/represent your paying members? You, sir, and your association failed the players. Do not deflect the blame.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Of course, why didn’t the have the foresight to realize that a player failing a test would wait four days to be informed hours before the gold medal game? For shame.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        Is that what you really care about 1943? Who cares whether it’s 3 days or 3 hours before a game? Do you think the hockey players are the only ones being tested or the Olympic games evolve round NHL players? Seriously! Get a life

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        As the Dalai Lama once said to me, “Gunga gunga galunga.” I’m doing just fine with the life I’ve got.

        Both aspects of this are issues. Two hours before puck drop is unfair to the team and its coach. But the fact that this wasn’t a problem in 2010 but was today is also an eyebrow-raiser.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        Maybe his level of pseudoephedrine was below the 150 micrograms per milliliter limit. Have you thought about that?

      • angrytwitterguy - Feb 23, 2014 at 8:03 PM

        Funny how so many forget that it took 3 days for Ben Johnson’s test to come back positive.

        Testing takes time at the Olympics, this is nothing new, so if people don’t have the “foresight” to realize this is how it’s always been, they haven’t been paying attention.

        The NHL is looking like they want their millionaires to be treated differently than the amateurs.


      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 23, 2014 at 9:05 PM

        Three days would still mean the results were there on the 21st or 22nd, depending on if you count the day he was tested.

      • forsch31 - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        In addition, the Ben Johnson doping test was back in 1988, 25 years ago. Testing technology and procedures have improved in that time (go figure), and there’s supposed to be a 48-hour turnaround.

        Also, apparently, Backstrom’s B sample has not been tested. Under IOC procedures, it’s supposed to be tested in the event the A sample was positive, and a player is not supposed to be suspended until the B sample confirms the finding from the A sample.

        Yeah, something stinks about this…..

  3. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    “A lot of tests going on”

    Sorry professor, can’t write that essay on time, I’ve got a lot of papers going on. Surely the IOC can offer a better explanation than that.

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      Again! Is the issue really about timing? Or is it about a banned substance?

      • c9castine - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        both. timing is important for two reasons. gives you a chance to appeal, which would indicate an actual process. what if the test results were wrong and the level was actually under 150?

        also gives the team actually time to adjust.

        but the IOC seems to have no responsibility in the matter. Sorry we were busy is lame. That excuse doesn’t work in the real world shouldn’t here either.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        Yeah! I hear you. Unfortunately, there is little time in the Olympics to appeal. It’s a sports spectacle to be completed within 2 weeks, unlike an NHL/MLB season where there is ample time for appeals. Safe to say the NHLPA will want to participate in the testing process if they participate again in the Olympics.

  4. joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    The question is WTF was an elite player playing on the world stage taking medication that the doctors knew or should have known contained a banned substance?

  5. joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    It took me less than 5 minutes to find the World Anti Doping Code and The 2014 Prohibited List/International Standard. Why couldn’t the NHLPA and/or team doctors not aware?

    It’s written black on white; “Pseudoephedrine is prohibited when its concentration in urine is greater than 150 micrograms per milliliter.”

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      took me zero minutes to find that. It’s in the article… if you can do math.

      “Backstrom tested positive for 190 mg of Pseudoephedrine, 40 mg over the legal amount.”

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        Well! Good for you! zero minutes to read an article. Back to the lowly Leafs I suppose.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        You’re trying to be taken seriously? and all you have is pathetic (and out of date) jab at the Leafs

    • jimw81 - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      World Anti Doping group act like they are the world police on illegal performing drugs. they are root of the problem why it’s hard to get the nhl or mlb to participate in the olympics. they are destroyed tour de france.

      • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        Imagine if the MLB players were randomly tested to the scrutiny of the Olympic standards. I bet the suspension list would surprise everyone. LOL (especially during the 80’s-mid 2000’s)

  6. jimw81 - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    i think people dont understand when they first announce the rosters, the ioc and iihf start testing during the season.thats why they are so late in announcing the rosters.both league and pa are protecting the players.

    these quotes coming from the nhlpa is don fehr saying that they need to cut back on the test and be more liberal and we are gone.

  7. angrytwitterguy - Feb 23, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    What exactly is the IOC supposed to do? They can’t bury the positive test, and they can’t treat Backstrom different than they would and have treated other athletes who were over the limit on this drug.

    Should they test differently for different events? absolutely, from my understanding the reasoning behind this drug being monitored is for long distance events.
    Should a curler be banned for having too much of it in their system? No, Should hockey players? No

    But these are the current rules they were working under, well known rules. The IOC’s hands are tied until a hearing can happen to attempt to resolve the result of the test, but that takes time.
    They have a test that is over the limit of what is considered acceptable, and they need to ban the athlete because that’s the rules. It would better to get a 48 hour turn around on testing sure, but it didn’t, and it hasn’t in the past either, Winter or Summer games, testing usually takes 3-4 days.

    Maybe this will be a catalyst for change, but people blaming the IOC for treating Backstrom the same as the rest are completely off base.

    Criticize the IOC and the rules, but they are only following WADA’s guidelines. As short sighted as they may be

    • jimw81 - Feb 23, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      WADA is the same group who tried to implement Olympic style testing into nfl and mlb through congress.

  8. hockeywizardbill - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:27 AM

    I think that the late announcement gave Canada more of an unfair advantage than the extra 40 mg of allergy meds that Backstrom took. As a Canadian, and Team Canada fan, I would rather have had him play, and let the coach and team execute what they had prepared for. It almost seemed like the IOC just handed us the win, without seeing what Sweden really had in store for us. It’s a bit of a disappointment for hockey fans worldwide

  9. nhstateline - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    The NHLPA and the player have a legit complaint here because it took so long to process the sample meaning there was no time for a re-test. That’s the real problem, what if the sample that they took was taken after a game when the player is dehydrated and the concentration of the drug comes up as being higher in the blood than it usually would be ? How and when the sample was collected is at least as important as what the result is because those things can impact the result. Obviously the medical staff and the player knew where the limit on this drug was and probably figured what they were doing was within it. The relevant question is did anything in the sample collection change that or is there an error margin in the test that would push the player over that limit ? These are legitimate questions that really should be answered. That said, Canada would have won anyway.

    • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Why should he be allowed a re-test. This drug already got headlines back in Vancouver 2010 where Lubomir Visnovsky was suspended 2 days in the Olympics.

      You would think the players and doctors would look at the banned list from the IOC.

      Imagine if they got his results back before the Sweden/Finland game, and he had to sit out that game till the second results were back? Would if be fair for him to sit out that game instead?

      How about everyone look at the list of suspended athletes for doping (wiki it)

      Why are equestrians banned…they are just riding a horse?

      That’s because there are rules set forth…and they should be followed.

      • nhstateline - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        because if there’s a margin of error in the test and a probability of false positives then it really is unfair for this guy to get knocked out of the gold medal game with two hours notice and on a single test. Then it gets into how and when was the sample collected and there’s not been as much transparency about that as there was about announcing this happened. Show me when they got the sample, how it was collected and who did the testing using what method and we’d have a better sense if this is a fair result or not. It isn’t like this was significantly out of the range of normal. There is a strong probability that either sample bias or a testing error happened here. I was curious and asked people with backgrounds in these kinds of testing and they were agreeing with what the Swedes and the PA were saying. I also found people who could add and they said Russia actually got the most medals so I guess Russia is winter not Canada.Canada would be more like the fourth week in November or the second week in March……It’s close to winter but not actually it.

  10. newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    What I find ironic is that a very similar situation had occurred in Vancouver 2010, where another player tested positive for elevated levels of pseudoephedrine.

    If one player had already been warned and potentially suspended from the Olympics, you’d think that doctors, staff and players would look into what is acceptable and what is not by the IOC.

    Yes, I would have loved to see Backstrom in the game, and yes it was probably the biggest game of his career (which will not happen again). But rules are rules. If you break them you pay the consequences.

    Unfortunately thats what happened.

    Imagine if they got the samples done before the game against Finland…and Sweden lost that game. There would be uproar as well.

    Timing is irrelavant at this point IMO.

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