LARAQUE: NHL STEROID USE WIDESPREAD?

Robin Brownlee
November 06 2011 09:44PM

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.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 tyler
November 06 2011, 07:53AM
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I wear a helmet 24-7.

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#2 Ken
November 06 2011, 08:06AM
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The NHL testing policy has so many holes you could drive a semi thru it. As testing is only during the season and it takes three months for steroids to clear the body the players have two months where they can juice up and work out. The only test they use is urine sampling which does not catch hgh. Perhaps if the NHL had proper drug testing there would be less concussion problems as players would be closer to their proper build rather than 15 or more pounds of muscle heavier.

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#3 R-DAWG
November 06 2011, 08:06AM
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I was a huge Georges Laraque fan when he was woth Edmonton. I was pi$$ed when they traded him out. Now I can't stand to hear the name Georges Laraque!! No wonder they kicked him out of town...who wants this kind of crap getting around. Who gives a rats ass if SOME players do steroids??!! Does anybody walk to the rink going "oooh I'm not going to watch so and so cause he does steroids. It's just a fact of life...some people get it, some people don't!!

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#4 ChaseEmDown
November 06 2011, 08:09AM
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It would be naive to think it happens in all sports except hockey. I hope he sheds some more light on this eventually and that the league does something about it.

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#5 OvenChicken8
November 06 2011, 08:10AM
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You'd have to be pretty ignorant to think that the NHL is the only professional sport in NA without a PED problem. Props to big George for bringing it out and making it known to the public.

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#6 Pilgor09
November 06 2011, 08:12AM
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@R-DAWG

Umm because steriods kill and Laraque is obviously worried.

Who wants the NHL to turn into the MLB?

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#7 R-DAWG
November 06 2011, 08:15AM
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He's not worried!! He's just trying to get his name noticed everywhere so when it's time to vote, his name will stand out!!

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#8 Pilgor09
November 06 2011, 08:17AM
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@R-DAWG

Because no one knows who George is right now...

Let's vote for Laraque cause he promoted testing awarness!! That's a terrible arguement.

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#10 VK63
November 06 2011, 08:32AM
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I remember Stauff having him on last year and Georges level of desperation to stay relevant was apparent then. Busting Bobs sack for a weekly spot etc. etc.

We have seen it forever, guys (and their wives for that matter) who struggle with life out of the limelight. Its a rather large kick to the junk for some and their ability to cope is variant.

Georges case is even more unique as he was hired for one specific job and decided that he was above that in a failed effort to redefine himself on the ice. End result. A premature trip to the trash heap. ( thanks in certain part to Milan Lucic being the player George wanted to be rather than the player George was) and this grand drama played itself out on the largest stage in hockey (no apologies to T dot O).

I kinda feel for his desperation and the screams to remain relevant but all in all..... in my estimation... theres just something not right with George Laraque. Personally I also walk amongst those who dont give a rats ass about what he has to say on this matter. Simply because I dont know what he pretends to gain from the "revelation" beyond a wee bit of "pub". Is George concerned for the health of the users? Is George trying to clean up the tarnished image of the NHL? Is George trying to level the playing field in the NHL?

~Cmon Man!!!!!!!!!!~

Dear George

U were a great fighter who couldnt skate worth a fcuk cause you was a muscle bound knuckle dragger. Embrace what you were good at and STFU about your conspiracies about why others were better. Its called genetics..... look it up.

ps. thanks for the many hours waiting in line to sign stuff at rexall, my kids still love u... I wont buy them your book

Dad

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#11 They're $hittie
November 06 2011, 08:34AM
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Olympic year? laraque being a partial snitch?

blowing the whistle on someone big here. CP?

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#12 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 06 2011, 08:35AM
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Laraque is a stand-up guy. even when the spotlight is on him he never makes it about himself and always appears humble. But that doesn't make him afraid to speak his mind about issues on and off the ice (whether it be racism, head injuries, or steroids). some may find that irritating or breaking some vow of brotherhood. But I don't see it that way.

The NHL is being lapped by other major sports on head injuries and steriods. It looks bad. The point isn't to nanny state up the NHL, but neither is it to let everything run amuck.

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#13 a lg dubl dubl
November 06 2011, 08:44AM
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Kudos to George for putting a bug in our ear about ped's at least he didn't call anybody inparticular out in the book about drug use like that boob Canseco.

I hope the NHL & NHLPA take note and do more to protect the players before we hear about a player oding next summer.

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#14 BArmstrong
November 06 2011, 09:04AM
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@Pilgor09

Steroids kill? So do bowling balls. Steroids in large amounts can and do result in negative health consequences, but deaths are rare. It's the current edition of Reefer Madness.

As far as drug use in the NHL - I think we're all aware to some degree but for one reason or another we accept/ignore it. Don't believe me? Ask yourself if you care the next time you see a certain older, reemerging top goaltender (ha-hmm, rhymes with cabbie) do a post game interview with pupils the size if nickles, darting from place to place faster than a cat chasing a laser pointer. Maybe it's from baby aspirin and smelling salts - I'm no expert but it's not normal.

Do you care? Are you happy with the win?

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#15 Walter Sobchak
November 06 2011, 09:13AM
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Pilgor09 wrote:

Umm because steriods kill and Laraque is obviously worried.

Who wants the NHL to turn into the MLB?

Tell me exactly how steroids kill?

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#16 Walter Sobchak
November 06 2011, 09:13AM
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Pilgor09 wrote:

Umm because steriods kill and Laraque is obviously worried.

Who wants the NHL to turn into the MLB?

Tell me exactly how steroids kill?

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#17 Walter Sobchak
November 06 2011, 09:14AM
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Damn double post!

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#18 MattL
November 06 2011, 09:22AM
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Ya think? There's PED's in every other professional sport on the planet...

Just a coincidence that the Caps were using that steroid doctor? Ever seen Raffi Torres' eyes? I remember Kirk Muller looked like a psycho murder in his last couple of seasons. CRAZY EYES.

Steroids, coke, ephedrine, HGH... No big surprise.

If you're in denial and think Laraques would fabricate this kind of stuff for any reason... get a grip.

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#19 @NateInVegas
November 06 2011, 09:22AM
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The more Laraque talks in retirement, the more I wish he'd shut up. (Unless he names names)

It's not like people are naive enough to think the NHL is 100% pure. (Jonathan Cheechoo comes to mind) Other than money, why is Laraque the Chief of morality in the NHL?

I'm not sayingn he's wrong, I'm just saying he needs to go away and move on.

What's next George, NHL players cheat on their wives???

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#20 Jerk Store
November 06 2011, 09:39AM
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As much as you may not agree with Georges' politics or his pursuit of "facetime", few can say his heart is not in the right place. Those remembering Canseco's first book probably remember him being denounced as a media whore for making "outrageous" claims that over 1/2 the league was on PEDs. While he clearly had a ton of issues his claims were proven right.

I don't know George but I think he is cut from a different Jib than Canseco and I may be naiive but I would like to think his main purpose is to help stop the abuse.

Tough to imagine there aren't kids that are tempted to "do whatever it takes" for a better opportunity to make it. Time to bring this issue to light.

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#21 Racki
November 06 2011, 09:46AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Tell me exactly how steroids kill?

Not my post, but to answer that...

There have been steroid-related deaths before (namely about half a dozen or so in wrestling). They have been known to cause an enlarged heart or other heart problems, as well as kidney problems and other health risks.

There are many that have taken them without experiencing these sorts of problems, but to think there aren't any dangers involved in taking them would be a fallacy as well.

Anyways, my belief... I am sure there are players that do take steroids in the NHL, but I'm not so sure that it's widespread at all. I think there won't be much in the way of support from his fellow players on this (and I mean from the non-steroid users). I don't think he'd make anything up either though, just for the sake of making it up... but I just wonder if there is a small handful that he he just has suspicions of and that might be a bit misleading. Still yet, I wouldn't mind it if the new CBA took steroid use more seriously in increasing the amount of random tests they do (for example), because you just never know how widespread it could be. I think in baseball though the use was quite obvious. Guys like MacGuire who were skinny one year then ginormous the next.

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#22 John Chambers
November 06 2011, 09:47AM
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Ken wrote:

The NHL testing policy has so many holes you could drive a semi thru it. As testing is only during the season and it takes three months for steroids to clear the body the players have two months where they can juice up and work out. The only test they use is urine sampling which does not catch hgh. Perhaps if the NHL had proper drug testing there would be less concussion problems as players would be closer to their proper build rather than 15 or more pounds of muscle heavier.

I think you make the most valid point in the whole argument. Regardless of how (we) may feel about Laraque, PED's are almost certainly a contributing factor to the increasing level of aggression in the game.

The NHL has their heads buried in the sand on a great many number of issues, including this very important one.

Thanks for bringing it up, George. We'll let Peter Mansbridge take it from here.

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#24 6 ring circus
November 06 2011, 10:04AM
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This should not come as a surprise, I beleive like alot of the other people here, that Big George is doing this to stay in the limelight.What he has really done is basically broken the golden rule in all sports and thats what happens in the dressing room or behind closed doors stays there.He can say what he wants, but I for one do not beleive him ,that he is doing this for the benefit of the NHL, he is doing this for his benefit and thats to bad.

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#25 ButtermilkBiscuitsAKAoilers2k10
November 06 2011, 10:16AM
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What I'm wondering is how many times did laraque insert the penis shrinking needle himself?

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#26 John Chambers
November 06 2011, 10:19AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Indeed. There are all kinds of pseudo-professionals who linger around big-league locker rooms: trainers, medicinalists, pimps, lawyers, investment guys, even the mob*.

Pro athletes have a lot of money, a lot of celebrity, and a lot of fun, and there's a crowd on the periphery trying to cater to- and be relevant to them.

To your point, Brownlee, the same guy who sells Raffi the coke probably sells him the juice.

*I play hockey with a former St. Louis Blue who has some great stories of these mob guys following the team around trying to get players to help launder money. They would give gifts, hookers, offer up muscle, and even sent the guy's family a bunch of farm equipment to their Saskatchewan ranch.

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#27 John Chambers
November 06 2011, 10:21AM
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@6 ring circus

Although it shouldn't downplay the merits of having the debate, it is too bad he's trying to hawk a book right now, isn't it.

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#28 ken
November 06 2011, 10:50AM
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I think ped use is a huge issue which has been ignored by the owners and union. The two sports it would have the most effect on would be hockey and football.These are the two sports that have the most concussion problems which is partly related to the size and aggression of the players. Its talked about how the ice is too small because the players are all too big.Well they are not all too big but you can point out a whole bunch usually hitters and 6 minute a game grinders who fit the ped profile. Its not only Laraque who has spoken on this Dave Schultz commented the same way after Boogards death.Schultz was an enforcer at 195 lbs.In todays game he would not qualify.Ever wonder why?

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#29 Big Cap
November 06 2011, 11:10AM
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Big George is looking to remain in the spotlight...

He clearly didnt want to jeopardize his career while playing and make these comments. ONLY now that he had made his millions and is looking to remain relavent.

Had he made this stand 10 years ago in his prime he would be worthy of a strong stand up guy truly acting on the saftey of his fellow players.

Sorry George... Your barely hanging on, and this is a cheap excuse to keep your name in the headlines!!!

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#30 Peff
November 06 2011, 11:17AM
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I've been saying this for almost 2 years now. It was about 2 years ago the Washington capitals were caught up in rumors of seeing a Chiropractor who went on record as to saying he sold PED to athletes in all leagues .NHL included, and I think even named the Washington Capitals ... I thought for sure this would blow up .... Nothing , swept under the rug . Ever since then Ovie's and some of the other players lost something ( Ovie hasn't been the same since) there was a time if Ovie couldn't go around a d- man he'd just go over him .He is not the same dominating forward he once was ... Some would even say he's getting fat !! All signs of being off of PED . Now with that said , this is just MY THOUGHTS with no proof . But one thing for sure is he is not the same player I remember .

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#31 Jason Gregor
November 06 2011, 11:25AM
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@They're $hittie

The rake never gained weight man. No chance it was him. 2006 Olympics was also year he carried Oilers to Cup. That doesn't jive with what Laraque wrote as far as having a down year.

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#32 gravis82
November 06 2011, 11:29AM
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If Ovi was using, this just goes to show how amazing Crosby really is.

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#33 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
November 06 2011, 11:37AM
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gravis82 wrote:

If Ovi was using, this just goes to show how amazing Crosby really is.

and if they were both using?

**law and order theme song starts playing**

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#35 ColeRoll
November 06 2011, 12:05PM
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Didn't Iginla lose a whole whack of weight coming out of the lockout (olympic year)?

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#36 FastOil
November 06 2011, 12:28PM
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Break the rules and pay the price. I can't feel sorry for those who will do anything to win, legal or not, and eventually get caught.

It was only a matter of time.

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#37 John Chambers
November 06 2011, 12:29PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Hey, I'm responding to the multitude of comments labeling Laraque's newfound stance as being self-serving.

Personnally I applaud him for shining a light on the issue. By contrast, I also think it's fair for people to criticize the fact he's trying to sell a book and is being opportunistic. Thanks George, but you're no more an authority on the subject than anyone else who's been in an NHL locker room over the past decade.

Altruism and the profit motive seldom intersect.

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#38 justDOit
November 06 2011, 12:39PM
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If the other tough guys' arms are trembling, and his eyes are bugged out, could it be because he knows he's going to get POUNDED by GL?

I would argue that most of the steroid use that Georges saw, was because the other guys were trying to keep up with HIM!

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#40 Walter Sobchak
November 06 2011, 12:44PM
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Racki wrote:

Not my post, but to answer that...

There have been steroid-related deaths before (namely about half a dozen or so in wrestling). They have been known to cause an enlarged heart or other heart problems, as well as kidney problems and other health risks.

There are many that have taken them without experiencing these sorts of problems, but to think there aren't any dangers involved in taking them would be a fallacy as well.

Anyways, my belief... I am sure there are players that do take steroids in the NHL, but I'm not so sure that it's widespread at all. I think there won't be much in the way of support from his fellow players on this (and I mean from the non-steroid users). I don't think he'd make anything up either though, just for the sake of making it up... but I just wonder if there is a small handful that he he just has suspicions of and that might be a bit misleading. Still yet, I wouldn't mind it if the new CBA took steroid use more seriously in increasing the amount of random tests they do (for example), because you just never know how widespread it could be. I think in baseball though the use was quite obvious. Guys like MacGuire who were skinny one year then ginormous the next.

I never said any side effect's!

There's side effect to taking to much ibuprofen, I'm not questioning the side effects or long term side effect's. I question how exactly does steroids kill from taking them? linking wrestling deaths and steroids is absurd! there maybe a correlation but theres no prof that anyone died directly from taking steroids! More evidence and prof that MLB players abused steroids too! how many have died?

As a medical professional I can tell you that regular use of steroids in controlled manner has about the same effect on your body as prednisone,(which is a steriod) further more some steroids actually allow your body to heal faster.

there's prof that HGH for example used in a controlled manner is actually very good for you.

Having said that, yes like every sport there is steroid use, how players use it depends on what they do.

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#41 jfry
November 06 2011, 12:57PM
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don't turn laraque into a rat, brownlee.

names is only glory for YOU and the politicians who jump on it like mlb.

you could take a more noble stance and assist the problem moving forward. dragging people through old mud is easy and boring.

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#42 andrewmk20
November 06 2011, 01:07PM
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@Ken

I had a friend who was a bodybuilder and he explained to me that the half life of many steroids are much shorter than three months, especially the higher quality products that pro athletes/bodybuilders can afford.

Not only traditional testosterone steroids but pain killers and steroids for the purposes of endurance seem more popular for pro athletes. So if they wanted athletes could spend up to four months using Performance Enhancers.

I'm not one of those people that accuses everyone of using because I also used to be a gym rat and in speaking with many people some used some didn't. But with the kind of punishment and abuse that pro athletes put on their bodies it takes a toll so I can see why some people use it.

This accusation by Georges though smacks of Cansecoesque behaviour. I agree with those analysts on SN. If you are going to out this info don't be a coward and do it after your career. Do this while you are playing so you can actually have impact on the subject, don't do it after you've retired just to garner publicity for whatever your doing, in this case a book.

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#43 justDOit
November 06 2011, 01:14PM
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@Robin Brownlee

But paid in full after the publisher read it, no? I mean, there's money to be made by selling 'shocking allegations'.

I'm not saying he's doing this for money, and I also applaud him for coming out with this. But to say that he was paid up-front does not disqualify him from doing it for financial gain. How his contract is structured is meaningless.

Georges: "Here's my book." Publisher: "Does it contain any shocking allegation?" Georges: "No." Publisher: "Well, we'll pay you (up front) much more if it does. Add a few more chapters and we'll talk again."

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#44 andrewmk20
November 06 2011, 01:20PM
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I definitely stand in the corner of tougher testing. Blood testing is really the best way to be sure at this juncture of PEDs.

Off season testing should also be impletmented if they really want to stamp out PEDs. Although that seems difficult because the NHL can't follow players around in the off season. They could require players to provide blood testing once a month to a lab and provide the results at the start of camp. The only concern there though is cost and the fact that it's the players time off.

Also to Wes Mantooth. The issue is that medical professionals don't dose and handle the use of steroids, HGH, etc. unless it's actually medically prescribed for a major injury or something related to health issues. It's the players themselves doing this and they are not medical professionals. It's the danger that is posed every time someone OD's or overuses these drugs and does damage to themselves.

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#45 Harlie
November 06 2011, 01:25PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

The rake never gained weight man. No chance it was him. 2006 Olympics was also year he carried Oilers to Cup. That doesn't jive with what Laraque wrote as far as having a down year.

I always wondered why in 1998, Messier was left off the Olympic roster..

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#46 Smokey
November 06 2011, 01:36PM
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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.

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#47 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
November 06 2011, 02:02PM
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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.

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#49 BArmstrong
November 06 2011, 02:40PM
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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.

Avatar
#50 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
November 06 2011, 03:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
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cheers

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.

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