Saturday, April 21, 2007

NHL Substance Abuse Policy Catches Somebody

The second season of the NHL's testing for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs is almost over and, until yesterday, it had never caught anyone. This is despite the fact that the 2006 pre-Olympic drug testing caught two NHLers. It caught Bryan Berard with a steroid violation and Jose Theodore tested positive for a steroid masking agent (that he was taking for other reasons). Since they were caught outside the NHL system, they were not subject to any disciplinary action. This creates a potential problem where law enforcement officials could catch a player importing steroids and the NHL could not suspend him.

The NHL had claimed that the lack of any positive tests proved that there was no steroid problem in the NHL. This claim is unbelievable based on the Olympic drug tests and admissions by some NHL players.

The first person to fail a drug test administered by the NHL is Sean Hill of the New York Islanders. He is a 37 year old defenceman who has never been an NHL star. He played a regular role on the Islander defence, but was only one game from playoff elimination when the positive test was announced. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and his 20 game suspension (game one was last night's playoff game - 19 games remain) may be enough to end his career.

The truly cynical side of me says that the way to "prove" the NHL drug testing works is to sacrifice one or two bit players at the end of their careers to positive tests. Sean Hill would definitely fit this description.

Information on the details of this positive test is not available right now. It's not known exactly what Hill tested positive for. It's unlikely that a 37 year old defenceman would suddenly decide to take steroids after having been clean his whole career, so its a reasonable assumption that if this is a steroid violation, then he has not using them for a significant portion (if not all) of his NHL career. Its also clear that he successfully passed other drug tests over the past two years. How did this happen? It is also possible that this is an unintentional positive test. Hill may have been taking a nutrition supplement that contained steroids (unknown to him). Hill is a mid-sized defenceman who is a solid hitter and at his age is probably fighting some minor injury problems to stay in the lineup. I suppose he fits the description of a player who might benefit from steroids (but so would a couple hundred other NHLers).

Here is Bob McKenzie summarizing the few facts that we have in this case so far.

Comments:
You notice a trend here? Isles forward suspended (Chris Simon), Isles goalie brained (Rick DiPietro), Isles signee denied permission to play (Todd Simpson), Isles defenseman caught doing steroids (Hill)... This organization is a stupendous mess.

As a joke, I usually blame this on myself - my sports youth was choked with title teams (Isles four times, Giants twice, Mets). But something this consistently horrible is tough to explain. They changed owners, changed management (except for Milbury)... Maybe the Coliseum is on an Indian burial ground or something.
 
OH - and add that the Isles passed up on Parise to draft now-traded Robert "Schmilsson" Nilsson.

I will now jump off a high, fixed point.
 
As a joke, I usually blame this on myself - my sports youth was choked with title teams (Isles four times, Giants twice, Mets). But something this consistently horrible is tough to explain.You notice a trend here? Isles forward suspended (Chris Simon), Isles goalie brained (Rick DiPietro), Isles signee denied permission to play (Todd Simpson), Isles defenseman caught doing steroids (Hill)... This organization . They changed owners, changed management.
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