LARAQUE: NHL STEROID USE WIDESPREAD?

EdmontonOilers2

Former Edmonton Oiler Georges Laraque doesn’t name names, but the retired tough guy says the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was not uncommon during his time in the NHL.

In a book to be released by Viking Canada, The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, that is bound to send ripples through the NHL, Laraque, who played parts of 13 seasons with the Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs by NHL players.

What Laraque, 34, who retired after the 2009-10 season and is now deputy leader of the federal Green Party, doesn’t divulge in his references to the use of PEDs in his autobiography is who, when and where.

The question now is, will the always quotable Laraque, who filled notepads, hosted a radio show in Edmonton and was a regular off-season guest on Bob Stauffer’s popular Total Sports afternoon drive show on TEAM 1260 during his playing days, follow up and provide details?

I’m guessing we’ll find out soon enough when Laraque tours in support of his book.

ACCORDING TO GEORGES

“I have to say here that tough guys weren’t the only players using steroids in the NHL,” said in the book.

“It was true that quite a lot of them did use this drug, but other, more talented players did too. Most of us knew who they were, but not a single player, not even me, would ever think of raising his hand to break the silence and accuse a fellow player.”

Laraque, who played 490 regular season games with the Oilers and still lives in Edmonton, says use of steroids and other drugs wasn’t limited to the fraternity of players who earned their keep as tough guys.

“First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones the Winter Olympics are held.

“In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”

In The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, a wide-ranging look at Laraque’s life and career that mentions use of performance-enhancing drugs by unnamed players but doesn’t make the issue a focus in the 300-page book  — he refers to facing opponents jacked up on steroids and other substances.

“Before a game, as I would warm up on the ice, I would always look at the tough guy on the other side,” he wrote.

“If his arms were trembling, if his eyes were bulging, I knew for sure he wasn’t going to feel any of the punches I would give him.”

IGNORING THE ISSUE

While testing for performance-enhancing drugs was included in the CBA reached between the NHL and NHLPA in 2005 — players can be subjected to three no-notice tests from the start of training camp through the end of the regular season — Laraque claims there initially was reluctance to recognize a problem.

Laraque says he first approached the NHLPA with concerns shortly after he broke into the NHL with the Oilers during the 1997-98 season.

“They wanted to keep drug testing as a card in their negotiations with the league,” he wrote. “Plus, since their main goal was to protect the players, to take action against drugs would have harmed some of those players.”

While the NHL and NHLPA has yet to respond to Laraque’s contentions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, there’s bound to be plenty of fall-out in coming weeks. I’ve put a call into Laraque to see if he’d like to fill in some of the blanks and name names.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: SOME CONTEXT

Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has written a column I think is worth reading on Laraque’s decision to mention the use of performance-enhancing drugs in his book and some of the reaction directed his way for doing so. Blair’s column can be found here www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/jeff-blair/will-georges-laraques-claims-about-hockey-and-steroids-fall-on-deaf-ears/article2227405/.

At the very least, Blair’s column lends some context to the Canadian Press report that I and others have referenced or published, to the issues Laraque has raised and the reaction he’s received in recent days. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Kudoos to George to stand against the NHL hierarchy and stand up for the players in the league. Anyone who believes PED and HGH are not a problem are fooling themselves. George has way more to loose then to gain with statements he’s making. Standing up to the code, and standing against the current will Is not be best for him financially.

    I think George has seen the cost of no one speaking up against drug use. There are long overdue attitudes in the NHL about drugs that are not really being addressed, and if what he says stirs the pot, and saves lives, good on him. Drugs destroys the culture of the sport, its credibility, and worse yet the people in it.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    No surprise here at all. If a kid is willing to do whatever it takes to have a few years of glory then so be it. For some the lure of a life in pro sports far outweighs a neverwas normal one. Every kid who makes this decision does it knowing full well, the bulb that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.

    We’re all in charge of our own happiness in life, some kids are just willing to do whatever it takes to live closer to what they perceived as happiness.

  • BArmstrong

    PED use in the NHL – yup. But I’m of the opinion that the steroid use is of little concern – for two reasons.

    1) Not widely used. Yes, big solid dmen, enforcers, and some power forward types can benefit from them but for the most part, quick, fast mobile athletes don’t. Remember when Gags came to camp 10 pounds bulkier – he plays much better learner (see Rod Brind’amour).

    2) As Wes Mantooth has suggested – when used correctly, they are of little danger. In fact the health benefits can easily outweigh the negatives. Especially in an aging individual.

    The bigger concern should be with the stimulants. These have a far greater negative impact on health.

    But hey, I’m with Moneypuck – We’re all consenting adults. The athletes consent to the use, and we consent to the performance:)

    Edit: I apologize if I put word’s in Moneypuck’s mouth – that’s how I interpreted his comment.

    • OilLeak

      Quick Mobile Athletes don’t benefit from PED’s? Well I guess we neever heard of any track and field stars testing for banned substances huh? PED’s will help muscle density, strength, endurance, recovery, and injury repair. You think Hemsky or Tim Connolly couldn’t benefit from HGH?

      The advantages over other players are significant.

      • BArmstrong

        My comment was directed at Steriods.

        HGH? Probably a benefit to most NHLers.

        Anabolics? Probably not.

        Steroid use in the NFL for example is more prevalent in power positions – linemen, linebackers, running backs. Finesse positions – wide receivers, d-backs – don’t benefits as much. And yes, I think injury recovery is an area where use is more widespread.

        At the end of the day I’m okay with most of it.

        And as far as Hemsky goes? Forget HGH or steroids, a fitness/nutrition program would be a good place to start – we won’t be seeing him anytime soon in the ESPN mag:)

        • Anabolics can benefit everybody. There are many different types of Steroids. There are some that add power, strength and speed without the bulky gain. And their side effects are minimal if taken properly. Every athlete can benefit from this. A big mistake is thinking only the big bulky players are using Steroids.

          • Thank you mouse.
            There are people that actually know that steroids are for more than bulky muscle.

            Lance Armstrong used PEDs when he was an athlete and he used them for endurance for the tour de france.

            People should not be foolish enough to believe that just because someone is not 250lbs does not mean they do not use steroids.

          • Wax Man Riley

            I think Armstrong still denies taking PEDs, and has over 500 tests over 20 years to back him up. Please, correct me if I’m wrong.

            It has also been proven that Lance Armstrong is a bit of a mutant. That is probably the best term for him. He has a larger heart than most people, and his body is able to use oxygen more efficiently. While most NHL players have a VO2-max score in the 50’s(which is amazing, as I’m sure mine is in the teens if I’m lucky), Armstrong’s VO2-max before a race is in the LOW 90’s. His body also doesn’t build up the lactic acid in his muscles as much as most people.

          • Wax Man Riley

            Of course Armstrong still denies it. How many decorated athletes have actually admitted to it? Even when they’re put in court to testify, they still lie about it.

            There was rumour of 1 failed Armstrong test which may or may not have happened. I doubt everyone is accusing him just out of jealousy.

            The thing is, the PEDs have been at a further stage than the testing for a long time. So how do we know he wasn’t passing the tests just because he was using the latest PEDs.

            As for Armstrong being proven to be a bit of a mutant, do you not think that is maybe as a result of his years of PED abuse? Sorry but I don’t believe a word Armstrong says.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    this reminds me of a scene from under siege 2.

    We know this. The (pro leagues) know that we know this. We pretend we don’t know, and they (the pro leagues) make believe that they believe we don’t know. But they know we know. Everybody knows.

    show me proof, dont waste my time with general accusations that do nothing more than bring up more speculation.

  • I’m not taking the Deputy Leader of the Green Party (?) seriously until there are names and positive tests to back it up.

    It would be naive to think that no NHL players are using PED’s, but ‘widespread’? I don’t know…

    Seriously, Georges is sounding a lot like Raj Sherman. The average person isn’t going to take it seriously unless there’s evidence to corroborate the story. Until then…..meh.

  • A-Mc

    Not Necessarily PED related:

    I wonder if one day the NHL will have player size restrictions to help reduce the potential for serious injury.

    It occurs to me that the 175lb RNH would be destroyed by a solid hit from a guy weighing 245lbs.

    Would a 180lb minimum, 220lb maximum be too restrictive?

    I’m not usually a fan of restrictions. And in it’s own way, the game of hockey is weeding out the big guys anyway with its speed. But for player safety, is there any benefit to imposing physical requirements.

    • Jerk Store

      Interesting but not practical. The number of lawsuits against the league would be staggering. Also, there are times a Gretzky or certainly a Gilmour among others would have been ineligible.

      Edit: Sorry Arch did not mean to ride on your coat tails. I started typing before seeing your response. As an aside the NBA was considering a development league a few years ago where the max height was 6’4″ or something. I don’t think it ever got off the ground (no pun intended).

  • A-Mc

    Would the lawsuits be based on discrimination? or would it be players that are 245 bitching that 220lbs is out of line and that they are no longer able to be employed in the NHL? (i understand that cutting 25 lbs is no easy feat and would take a few seasons to do it properly to maintain competitive status the entire way).

    question: For a player to drop from 245 to 220 or even 230, is that too much weight loss to maintain a healthy state? I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure how much a 6’5″ athlete SHOULD weigh to be considered Normal. Duby is 6’5″ and 210; an extra 10-15lbs for a player should be acceptable, no?

    What if the NHL and the NHLPA gave teams a 5 year plan stating that in 5 years, players must not exceed XX pounds, and that they have 5 years to rework their assets to conform to these changes.

    ps: I’m not entirely sure that weight is a big deal anyway, I’m more or less exploring the idea; good or bad.

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      There’s just no way, at least IMHO, that any union would allow restrictions like that to be put into place.

      That’s why they have the NHLPA.

      • A-Mc

        Why? If it’s obvious to you why that is something that is Bad. Dumb. Never-going-to-happen, then please explain it to me.

        I’m not saying this is an answer to any issues we have, I’m just exploring the idea. So far, people have only offered the answer of ‘no’ with out explaining why it would flop.

        Please explain yourself.

  • A-Mc

    It has been about three years since I have cared about any kind of steroid accusation. I find it very hard to care, no matter what the sport. You could tell me that Tiger Woods has been using steroids for his entire golf career and it wouldn’t diminish his accomplishments through my lens.

    Laraque’s comments are not surprising, upsetting, or concerning to me in the least.

  • A-Mc

    A quick stats query of last year shows me that there are 72 players out of 681 that are Above 230lbs or below 180lbs. The Ends of the spectrum are extreme @ 270lbs and 157lbs.

    PS: Updated using NHL.com stats instead of an inaccurate program i used earlier off the iNet.

      • A-Mc

        Ok. I see the ‘stats program’ i’m using that i found online shows his weight as 230 for 2010-11 season. That number isn’t reflected on the Bruins NHL.com page, so obviously the WT stat in this program isn’t accurate.

        Thanks for pointing this out!

        is there a place people go to to get a good database of ACCURATE stats for players/teams? I’m basically looking for something that will allow me to dick around with things in an Excel-like program

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          what’s wrong with the numbers NHL teams quote about their own players? That seems as solid a source as any other. Although, they too are neglectful (the other day we discovered the Oiler’s “in the system” page is woefully out of date).

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Glad you sorted something out. Hope your mucky-mucking about is fruitful, or at least fun.

            PS. Landeskog. Yea… I knew I would get called on that, hence the “radically imperfect.” I had in mind more a mix of attributes that the League clearly values, ie. youth, talent, etc. I just thought that suspension was a bit rough and part of the reason why was because Sutton is a minor figure in hockey (not a Pronger or Chara), who is also huge and Landeskog is clearly a future NHL poster boy (and while not undersized in the least, is considerably smaller than Sutton).

            pps. I watched the Buffalo/Ottawa game on Sat. and they mentioned that Gerbe is the shortest player in the NHL (5’5″) and he is 178lbs so to be only 145 is crazy to me. That player would need super speed and evasion skills to stay safe I would imagine. By the way, Gerbe pooched his shootout attempt pretty good.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Whoa… who’s 145lbs? that’s extreme featherweight territory.

      On topic: I see what you are gesturing at but agree with others that it is impractical. Small players need to find their niche, whether is it evasion (RNH) or hitting above their weight (Fleury). NHL competition is so elite that it tends to weed out people like MacIntyre who can’t skate, or at least severely limit their ice time.

      If we are going to blacklist players it should be performance based, i.e., I’d be happy to have the league decide Avery is such a blight on the sport his presence is no longer acceptable… But a guy like MacIntyre… if he can earn a spot somewhere I don’t begrudge him his position, or his size.

      Mind you I take it for granted that teams teach a guy like that his “role” and expect him to play it. If he goes after RNH, for example, I expect the League to come down hard (in a radically imperfect analogy see Sutton on Landeskog)

      • A-Mc

        Paul Byron was listed as 145lbs in this program i was using. It has been pointed out to me that these weights are inaccurate anyway so ignore the 145lbs, i can’t trust this DB.

        ps: Landeskog isn’t a lightweight though, just young; isn’t the kid over 200lbs? He’s a solid chap.

        PSS: i don’t necessarily believe that weight limits are/would solve anything. Again, I’m just exploring different ideas to see if they have merit. It’s clear that people are against weight limitations imposed on the basis of player safety. Admittedly, weight might be a very minor part of the equation when it comes to players being hurt in a collision. Physics would dictate otherwise, but physics doesn’t account for dirty hits (which i would think is the major cause of injury. ie: hitting from behind and Hits to the head).

  • Rob...

    ~I hear the latest steroid of choice gives you a long face, puffy lips, and make you think you can beat the trap by skating as fast as you can along the boards into the opponents zone, regardless how many times the move fails.

  • Crackenbury

    Until someone names names or provides direct evidence of PED’s in the NHL it’s a non-story. Laraque’s quotes to-date do nothing to help in the fight against PED’s and I fear he will regret mentioning it if he is not prepared to back it up.

    So-called whistle blowers that sound the alarm but are too afraid to say what they know should either keep their mouths shut or open up completely. There is no in-between.

      • Crackenbury

        Man- up or shut-up. It’s a simple concept and one that our entire legal system is based on. It seems to be outdated though. Any wingnut can throw out whatever rumour or innuendo they feel like these days and have no consequences.

        Laraque says he knows the abusers, be a man and spit it out. His comments are nothing more than PR to sell his book much like his recent quote how Gretzky was his worst coach ever. He refuses to elaborate on that as well. I used to think Laraque wasn’t all that bright, but he sure knows how to self-promote.