Inside the GM Meetings
It was the little bit of inside drama on the first day of the NHL general managers meetings.
As NHL Players Association executive director Paul Kelly made his presentation to the GMs on Monday, New Jersey Devils president/GM Lou Lamoriello rose to his feet to ask a question.
Lamoriello, for years a member of the New York Yankees board, told the assembled group of a chapter in Joe Torre’s recent book “The Yankee Years” in which the gory details of baseball’s love affair with steroids were laid out.
The admission this winter by Yankees star Alex Rodriguez that he had been a regular steroid user hit the baseball world like a hurricane. Given baseball’s reluctance to admit for years that it had a steroid problem, and given that baseball’s players union simply ignored what was going on, Lamoriello asked Kelly when the NHL players union was going to smarten up and realize that it was time to be proactive and enact a tough drug-testing policy as soon as possible.
Instead of waiting for a problem to develop, Lamoriello reasoned, hockey should be a model professional league, going out of its way to demonstrate that its players were clean at a time when sports fans are wondering just who is cheating and who isn’t.
Right now, hockey’s drug testing program excludes out-of-competition testing during the off-season, one of the reasons former WADA chief Dick Pound dismissed the NHL’s testing program as a “sham.”
Kelly told The Star last night that the players plan to address the drug testing issue this summer.
“The players will. . .respond to the league concerning whether improvements to our existing program are warranted,” wrote Kelly in an e-mail. “I was a chief drug prosecutor for over three years and have a fairly strong view on this issue. Even though I have seen no evidence to suggest that we have a performance-enhancing drug problem in our sport, it is an issue that will be reviewed and discussed in a serious manner with our membership.”
Players, of course, would complain that having more extensive testing would be an invasion of their privacy and question their integrity. The reason for more meaningful testing, of course, would be to prove hockey doesn’t have a problem and add legitimacy to its athletes.
Moreover, baseball proved that the problem began when steroids went from being used by the outlaw element of the game to something players believed they had to do to keep up and stay in the majors. That essentially left the clean players in the minority, and now has tainted all who played in the dirtiest era from 1998 to 2002.
Could hockey ever end up in the same trap? Lamoriello would argue that the best way to make sure that never happens is to act now, not wait until trouble starts to brew.