New York — All drug tests given to NHL players were clean during the first season of the league's anti-doping program, adopted last year in the labor agreement that ended the yearlong lockout.
"I suppose it's safe to say that the results confirmed what we knew already, which is the use of
performance-enhancing drugs is not prevalent in our sport," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday in an e-mail.
There were 1,406 tests conducted in the program that began in January. Daly said he was informed of the results two weeks ago.
Under the testing plan, the first in NHL history, every player in the league is subject to up to two random tests every year, with at least one on a teamwide basis.
A first-time offender gets a 20-game suspension without pay and mandatory referral to the league's substance abuse program for evaluation, education and possible treatment. A second positive test carries a 60-game suspension.
If a player fails a third time, he would be permanently suspended by the league. The player has the right to apply for reinstatement after two years.
The list of prohibited substances, agreed upon by a joint committee of the NHL and the players' association, includes those maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency for out-of-competition testing. That doesn't include testing for stimulants.
"We are not surprised by the fact that no NHL players violated our ban on performance-enhancing substances after over 1,400 tests were completed during the season," said Ted Saskin, the NHL Players' Association executive director. "We have always known that our sport does not have a problem in this area."
Columbus defenseman Bryan Berard was suspended from international competition for two years after he tested positive for a banned steroid while he was a candidate to play on the U.S. hockey team at the Turin Olympics. Jose Theodore, now of the Colorado Avalanche, also failed an Olympic screening test because he used a hair-growth drug that is banned because it can be used as a masking agent.
Theodore, then with Montreal, was not chosen for the Canadian Olympic team. David Mulder, the Canadiens' team doctor, said Theodore had been taking Propecia for eight years and not to mask other drugs.
Daly said Theodore wouldn't face NHL sanctions for future positive tests for Propecia because the goalie had already applied for an exemption for prescribed use. Since Berard didn't fail a league-administered test, he also wasn't punished by the NHL.
The league's testing program has been scrutinized and criticized by WADA president Dick Pound of Canada. Pound charged last year that one-third of NHL players were taking performance-enhancing substances.
Before the Olympics, he called the NHL's substance-abuse policy ineffective.
"It amounts to practically nothing," Pound said in February. "There are no offseason tests. And you're not allowed to test a player after a game or before a game."
The NHL and players' association, which jointly run the testing program, have repeatedly disputed his claims.