Dick Pound launched a verbal missile over Gary Bettman and the NHL’s bow on Thursday and by Friday night the echoes was still being heard in every NHL city.
Pound who is the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency made headlines with his declaration that one third of all NHLers were taking some form of performance enhancing substance. With those words Pound found himself public enemy number one in all segments of the NHL structure. From League officials to union reps, all claimed that Pound’s numbers were way off base and his knowledge of the NHL and its players was so significantly lacking, that they rendered his opinions of no value.
The firestorm first broke on Thursday with an interview with the London Free Press; he then went on the Fan 590's Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown and reiterated his claims, without providing any tangible proof to back up for his controversial and attention getting comments.
Pound has been having a running battle with sports for a number of years, always trying to keep his agency up to speed and ahead of the issue of performance enhancing substances. His comments on NHL players are probably designed to move the NHL more in line with his wishes for a comprehensive drug strategy for athletes. At the moment the NHL policy is for players are subjected to a minimum of two drug tests a year without warning. A first-time offender would receive a 20-game suspension. A 60-game suspension would be given to a repeat offender, with a permanent ban for a third offence.
In Pound’s opinion that is not near enough, to remove the temptation of performance enhancing agents. Never afraid to rattle a cage, his blazing headline grabber will no doubt have the effect he wishes, the topic of performance enhancing drugs will now become a much more prominent item on the NHL agenda.
Without substantial proof of his statistics it’s akin to pulling numbers out of thin air, no doubt even the most Pollyanna of NHL observers, would admit that some of the current players in the league are probably using drugs they should not be. But to use a broad brush and claim without proof that one third are currently juiced up seems a bit much.
If he has proof he should provide it, the idea of being guilty by association should have gone out of vogue a long time ago. If there is a serious problem in the NHL then it should be addressed, but dropping a bomb and then heading for the hills does nothing to create a sense of credibility for Pound. It doesn’t do much to further the debate, nor does it solve a problem if one truly exists.