The NHL hockey season is a grind to say the least. With 82 games spread over the span of roughly seven months, and then with a rigorous two-month playoff schedule with games occurring every other day, the road to the Stanley Cup is an incredible test of endurance and toughness-both physically and mentally.
As we’ve seen recently, athletes in other sports often rely on performance enhancing drugs to keep their game at a high level. The most recent round of baseball suspensions proves that this is still an issue in Major League Baseball, and Lance Armstrong’s admittance to using performance enhancing drugs shows that baseball isn’t the only sport that has been tainted by these drugs.
Despite this, the NHL has somehow seemed to be exempt from the use of performance enhancing drugs. In fact, only one player over the last seven years has tested positively for performance enhancing drugs. But does that mean that NHL players aren’t using them, or that NHL players aren’t getting caught? Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews recently weighed in on the subject, saying that it is naïve to think that NHL players aren’t using something despite a pretty clean track record over the last seven years.
“I think it would be naive to say that there’s no one in the NHL that is trying to get the edge in that fashion,” said Toews. “But, at the end of the day, whether you get caught now or not, down the road at some point those sorts of things come out as we’ve seen in Major League Baseball and cycling.”
Under provisions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players can now be subject to random tests during the playoffs and the offseason. Up to 60 players can be tested in the offseason.
The league and NHLPA also expanded the list of banned drugs. Although the league doesn’t currently test for HGH, the NHL plans to add HGH testing to the drug policy as well, according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
“I think, overall, it’s safe to stay that this is a sport where [PEDs] aren’t part of the culture,” Daly said.
While that may be true, and the NHL’s tradck record with only one positive test in the past seven years is certainly indicative of that, Toes believes that, like other sports, if NHL players are using then it’s only a matter of time before that information is unearthed, and it could tarnish the legacy of players who are accused.
“Eventually … someone is going to save their own butt and throw you under the bus. And that’s your legacy. That’s what people remember: that you’re a cheater and you took performance-enhancing drugs.”