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“Getting Out Ahead Of It”

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Hey folks, just wanted to get in a quick explanation of the steroids piece I wrote for Puck Daddy today

First (speaking of “getting out ahead of things”) I’m aware I’m going to take some shots for something, and that’s fine.  The hockey community is a tight-knit bunch, and a few people may be offended by the accusation that any part of our game is anything less that pure.

Don’t be offended – I’m right there with you, on the defensive side of Hockey (unless you mean the playing part of hockey, in which case you can guarantee I won’t be on the defensive side).  The point is, our game is one to be protected, as opposed to what baseball did with the whole “it’s not happening, it’s not happening” thing.  It’s like when a friend is killing themselves with drugs and alcohol – a good friend sits them down and intervenes, where the fakes ones just get out of the way of the pending train-wreck.  This is me sitting hockey down for a talk.

I thought I had a unique viewpoint on something not a ton of people know about.  I always knew I would write this column at some point, and since the start of the season (and the returning-player- flex-a-thon) is underway, it seemed more relevant now than at any other time.  I almost just banged it out as a blog 15 months ago for my few hundred readers, but I had enough sense to save it for a better forum.  Plus, I wanted to write it soon so that when (maybe that “when” should be an “if”) something does come up, I’m not just adding to the tsk-tsking din.

If anything, I hope it spurs somewhat of an epiphany for people – it’s not a crisis in our sport, but to beat a cliche, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So prevent, damnit, prevent!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to following up on this piece over the next week or so.  Thanks for reading, and I’ll be following up in the Bourne’s Blog comment section…. I’m guessing not so much over at PD.  And, I’ll have a fresh baked (extra-fluffy) Puck Daddy piece to direct you to tomorrow.  Yum.

And hey – ACTUAL hockey is almost here.  I think we’re all looking forward to that.

If I had any computer skills, I'd photoshop me under one of those desks. Or y'know, something actually secure.

*******

JB TRACKER, all times in EST:

*I’ll be on TEAM1260 in Edmonton at 5:25

*AM640 in Toronto at 8:20

*FAN590 on Friday the 17th at 10:00 a.m.

*Off The Record with Michael Landsberg sometime tomorrow.

Updates as they happen!

Comments

40 Responses to ““Getting Out Ahead Of It””
  1. Kennedy says:

    I’m not sure if more guys got caught that this would affect hockey in a negative fashion. Hell, they could spin it as being ahead of the curve. I think it affected baseball because for some inane reason it’s considered more pure and, of course, most media guys hated Barry Bonds.

    I think it’s incredibly telling that while there are congressional hearings into steroid use in baseball a sport considered so physically grueling they play 1 time a week and can’t possibly play more than 16 regular season games a year gets a total pass.

    In what sport is there most likely to be steroid use? Football. In what sport are the athletes the most ridiculously huge? Football. In what sport are steroids almost never talked about? Football.

    And which sport is the most popular….

  2. jtbourne says:

    Was it SNL who paradied the “All Steroid League?” Seems like a great idea – dudes who wanna do it just get right crazy big and mentally insane, and we all get entertained. I’d definitely watch.

  3. Travelchic59 says:

    Great article, Justin. But I can’t help think now that NHL players have pretty much given Donald Fehr the big thumbs up to be their new union leader, the whole steriods testing issue in the NHL will go NOWHERE.

    No one was more responsible for baseball having steriod issues than Fehr. No he didn’t encourage it’s use personally, but he was so anti-steriod testing that as far as I am concerned, he gave the players the green light to do whatever they needed to do to compete, even if it was considered cheating by the rest of society.

    NHL players now have their own green light to do steriods and you can bet Donald Fehr will be right there to defend their right to use them.

  4. Kennedy says:

    Interesting thing from your PD article. If a couple of “fighters” did test positive it would be interesting to see if that would be the final nail in the coffin of fighting in hockey.

    I LOVE fighting in hockey, especially the unscripted kind, but if fighters get linked to steroids I think that would be the end of it.

  5. Awassers says:

    Isnt it called LNAH? :-)

  6. Ricky says:

    Excellent article on Puck Daddy. I’m not surprised at what you say in the slightest. Most top sports have been tainted and Hockey isn’t an exception just because poor testing standards keep a lid on it. Until punishment is in years of suspension rather than a few dozen games I fear it’ll continue to go on whether the lid is blown off or not. Great work though.

  7. ms.conduct says:

    Given the lack of need for monster upper body bulk by most pro players and the physical grind of an 80+ game season, I would think the biggest appeal of the juice would be just in healing and feeling better. I’m guessing fairly low doses would be enough to accomplish that.

    I know how I feel when I’m injured and either I can’t play or it distracts me when I play and I think how easy it would be if there was HGH or something to make me feel better faster… Man, I can’t imagine how tempting that would be for someone whose livelihood is at stake AND with the risk being so low… One side of me kinda wouldn’t blame certain guys for going that route because of the role they play (hitters, shot blockers, etc.)

    But you’re so right, Justin. Get a genuine grip on it before it makes the league look like a bunch of asssssterisks….

  8. KarenfromRochester says:

    great article, Justin. I’d say it was very even-handed and since it didn’t mention any names, I don’t think it’s a negative article at all. Of course, some of the trolls at PD may disagree. I have a rhetorical question, though. I believe one of the duties of the NHLPA (at least in theory) is to watch out for the health and welfare of their members, no? I seem to remember reading somewhere that the union is concerned with head shots, illegal hits. etc.. If so, shouldn’t the steroid item come under that umbrella? Everyone knows that there are long-term adverse health effects from juicing and since they administer the pension, they should be coming out on the “more-testing” side of the issue. Or maybe I’m kidding myself….

  9. Steve says:

    Great article Justin, I tried to comment on Puck Daddy but yeah.. Yahoo’s servers were having none of that. I totally agree with you, it needs to be stopped before it becomes a big issue. It’s amazing how many fans think steroids wouldn’t help a hockey player’s performance.

  10. Brophy says:

    Justin,

    Nice work on the PD piece as well as the follow up here.

    I think the biggest reason why steroids have been a bigger deal in baseball than any other sport isn’t so much because “everyone was doing it” (not sure who I’m quoting here but I’ve read that a lot) but becuase the players who were breaking long-standing records and helping their teams win championships were doing it. Guys that were truly having an effect on the game of baseball were found to be (or at the least severely accused of being) users.

    If a bunch of fourth line grinders in the NHL start testing positive, I don’t think it will affect the game very much. But if your Hart trophy and Rocket Richard winners start testing positive, then you have a serious issue. That being said, I agree with you in that now is the perfect time for the NHL to increase their testing standards – get ahead of it before it becomes an issue. Maybe the NHL is scared some of their superstars are on summer cycles? But if your experience is representative of pro hockey as a whole, then they’re only going to be suspending a bunch of heavyweights and not big name players. And it comes full circle…I don’t think that would have an effect because people want to watch Crosby and Ovechkin do their thang not Boogaard-types thumping around.

    Just a thought…

  11. Mike P says:

    I really enjoyed the article. Good work!

  12. Alix in SJ says:

    I just wanted to say ‘Kudos’ for your Puck Daddy piece. I was reaching for the ‘re-tweet’ before I even got halfway through it. This is the kind of stuff I enjoy reading from you, as a good writer with first-hand, in the locker room perspective on these things–able to peel back the curtain but without naming names to target individuals.

    This is the second time you’ve done this, which I think is pretty awesome for as relatively new as your career is. I hope it sparks some positive change, much as your piece on homosexuality did last year led to Brendan Burke’s story.

  13. You are obviously trying to make waves so that people pay attention to your blog. I can understand and respect that. At the same time though, it seems that everyone needs to use a negative angle to get noticed. The league has a drug policy in place and if people are still getting away with drug use, than who $#@%@% cares.

    Athletes that use drugs and get away with will end up shriveled and useless, hope it’s worth it.

  14. petshark says:

    Thanks for writing this. It’s an ugly subject but important. Well done.

  15. KForbes says:

    One thing that stuck out to me was the idea of using drugs to help recover from injury and get back on the ice faster. When you couple that idea with the comment you made about playoff hockey (have at ‘em) and then you think of some key players who got injured down the stretch or in the playoffs with injuries that should normally keep them out of the lineup for a significant time but are able to make it back for the next game/week… it makes you wonder…

  16. Jeff Brokaw says:

    Nice job, as always Justin. I really like your work on Puck Daddy, going back to last year.

    I agree with you that getting out ahead of this issue should be a priority for the league and the players too. The league is already fast enough and violent enough, we don’t need the physical or emotional/mental aspects introduced by ‘roids. Not to mention the long-term health risks to the players (Ken Caminiti, etc.).

    Unfortunately, the state of the art with designer drugs is always two steps ahead of the state of the art of testing, so people who want to do this bad enough can do it. Even so, the league should do more.

  17. B.J. says:

    Great article. Kudos on a tough topic.

  18. Alanna says:

    “Justin Bourne, hockey’s Jose Canseco”
    Good ring to it, no?
    Kidding. Nice article.

  19. AndrewJ says:

    I agree with most of the comments. Nice article, evenly balanced. The problem is if you pissed anyone off, it’ll be the juicers, who you claim in the article are likely the heavyweights. So, protect yourself – keep your elbows up. Just don’t carry a gun in the waistband of your sweatpants – we all know how that would work out.

    Justin – unrelated question I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on. Why the hell does it matter if Luongo gave up the C? It’s not like he was ever conferring with the refs like non-goalie captains were. Why would anyone think this would affect his play? He still has to be a leader in the locker room – you can be as experienced as he is (and make as much $$) and not. Were you ever a C or an A and did it affect your play at all?

  20. Sean says:

    I know of a sleazeball personal trainer who has given steroids to major junior players hoping to make it to the NHL. Most of them don’t make it but they have to face the side and after affects of steroids later in life. That’s the one thing that you probably should have mentioned in your article. Steroids do pretty substantial damage to internal organs like the kidneys, liver and heart. They also increase the potential for injuries because the ligaments and bones do not grow at the same rate as the muscles and are thus not strong enough to support the increased muscle mass. Finally, steroids cause arthritis at very young ages. One only has to look at ex NFL players in their 30′s or 40′s rolling around in their wheelchairs or hooked up to dialysis machines to see what the horrifying consequences are. It seems a long ways away when you’re 20 and wanting to make the NHL, but those years go by pretty quickly…

  21. Amy Jo says:

    @ Peter

    Who cares if players are getting away with it? Everyone should. Unless you want hockey to become the joke that baseball is, something needs to be done to control this before it does become a huge problem.

    As far as Bourne writing about this to “make waves and get attention”, I disagree. Out of all the writers who cover hockey, he is one of the few who could write this without being ‘an outsider pointing the finger’. He has knowledge and experience than non-players don’t and he can speak to things first hand that everyone else would have to assume. He isn’t making waves, he’s writing about something that no one else has an angle on and has the balls to write because he loves the game.

  22. Derek says:

    Good article Justin. One thing you did not address, but was much more prevalent in my experience was the use of ephedrine and other similar drugs. I think I only know of 1 or 2 guys who were rumoured to be steroid users, but most guys on every team I played for used ephedrine, especially towards the end of the season.

  23. Amanda says:

    Another great read over on Puck Daddy today, Justin. Major props for sticking your neck out and addressing something the sport simply cannot continue to turn a blind eye to.

    What was it you tweeted a few days ago?…”Whenever a new @downgoesbrown piece drops, I open it in a new tab, save it like dessert. Once I’ve done real work, reward myself with a read.” Kinda sorta exactly how I feel/what I do when your latest musings hit. Kudos and keep ‘em coming!

  24. Steve C. says:

    Is it just me or do most of the comments over at Puck Daddy directly relate to your article instead of “You Suck”? Congrats on a great job Justin!

  25. Sherry says:

    Just now checking in… Will comment more later (read the article and skimmed the comments – now need to read the comments here). But first, I think there is a typo in the first sentence of the PD piece – possible should be possibly.

  26. Sherry says:

    Yea, my first comment is that the troll count in PD commentary seems low, and I think that is a testament to the fact that it is a thoughful, balanced, irrefutable (per your personal experiences) piece that addresses a serious topic. I see the lack of asinine commentary as an indicator that you’ve put up some real food for thought.

    And good on ya Justin for once again just putting it out there – truly you have become a writer/hockey player, “and not the other way around.” (Zoolander ref!)

    I agree that the best thing the NHL can do is get out ahead of this issue by incresing testing to more reasonable levels – especially since the sport still struggles to bring in the casual fan and throw off the mantle of it being a gooned-up, niche sport. There is too much investment of blood and sweat, and money, for the product (and I include players here) to not be handled with foward thinking and care using all available tools.

    Again, hear, hear on the piece Justin!

  27. AiH says:

    I’d say JB earned himself a beer for that hard hitting and well written piece. Thank you for sharing.

  28. mikeB says:

    I didn’t read the PD article, because quite frankly I don’t like the site.

    Regardless. HGH and Roids are in hockey. Don’t lie to yourself. Just like any sport. The NHLPA should toss a wrench in the NHL’s plans for banning players from Sochi by agreeing to full Olympic testing across the board if they let them play in the games. I think its a trade off a hell of a lot of players will make. Especially since all of the ones that will play are subjected to the testing anyways.

    It makes the league look good and it makes the players look good.

  29. @Amy Jo

    Someone who played the game doesn’t always mean that they have “inside” knowledge. i appreciate the content of the article, it is well written. The problem I have with it is what is the point?

    Is it to drive people to or away from the game? To wake people up?

    The NHL has had a testing policy in place for a long time, and we have rarely seen anyone fail a test. Would I be in favor of more testing ? Sure, I would, but I don’t think it would change anything. The NHL is loaded with athletes of honor, and respectability, I just find it hard to believe that any NHLer of any significance would be stupid enough to use PED’s.

  30. Amy Jo says:

    @Peter

    I appreciate your point. Is it a secret, rampant problem? No. Was it interesting and make me think in a slightly new way about players I watch play 81 games a season? Yes.

    Hockey players are definitely the top when it comes to character of all major sports, but I think this is a topic worth discussing and I’ve read Bourne’s stuff long enough to believe that he does have ‘inside’ knowledge. Not only from his own experience, but from relatives and teammates.

    The point is discussion. And by you and I discussing this topic, the point was achieved.

  31. Xenolord says:

    @ Peter DellOlio

    ” The NHL is loaded with athletes of honor, and respectability, I just find it hard to believe that any NHLer of any significance would be stupid enough to use PED’s.”

    You find it hard to believe that with literally MILLIONS of dollars on the line that not a single significant NHL’er(as you identified them) would consider using PED’s to, for example, recover more quickly from an injury ? Sorry but you are extremely naive to portray star NHL’ers as the bastions of honesty and integrity. In the end they are human like you and I (and Clemens, and Bonds, and Merriman, and….etc.). They’re just as susceptible to temptation as any on of us.

    Great piece Bourne. I think the comments about the PD article being an “attention grabber” are spot on but I see it as a good thing. Isn’t this what journalism is all about, bringing attention to a topic? And if you get some added facetime out of it, who has the right to blame you for that?

  32. minnesotagirl71 says:

    “It’s like when a friend is killing themselves with drugs and alcohol – a good friend sits them down and intervenes, where the fakes ones just get out of the way of the pending train-wreck. This is me sitting hockey down for a talk.”

    Great statement. You may lose some “friends” by addressing the tough issues, but you may also save some lives and protect the sport/people we love. Nice job starting/expanding the discussion on this issue.

  33. DALLAS STARS says:

    Justin, you are one of the most honest and genuine voices in Hockey (if not sports journalism). Keep up the good work!

  34. Alan says:

    JB-thanks for having the fortitude to broach and expand on the topical and sensitive issue of PED’s in the NHL, in spite of your own potential vulnerability to the inevitable blowback , as reflected in some of the comments on PD( although interestingly enough the minimum number to date) and in the feedback you’ll encounter during your scheduled interviews, and your future interactions with fellow former/current players.Your insights(as a recent member of the fraternity) and empathetic diplomatic articulation of this festering issue is a breath of fresh air, which hopefully precipitates a candid and healthy(pun intended for a multitude of obvious purposes) discussion and proactive responses from all stakeholders( including the blinkered,deniers and neanderthals).
    Keep up the good and enlightening work,as reflected in your ever-expanding fan base! Enjoy your forthcoming weekend, where you can hopefully decompress with Bri from your increased work load.

  35. Sandwiches1123 says:

    Mr. Bourne,

    I have been reading your blog for about 6 months now and I have to say the Puck Daddy submission is far and above your best contribution yet. I am not saying that you are not a good writer, if that were the case I wouldn’t be reading your blog regularly. Nay, I’m simply saying that you chose a great topic and offered a great perspective on that topic.

    I agree that PED’s are a huge issue in the NHL and lower leagues. My guess is that HGH is being used more during the summer because it is a substance that helps the body heal allowing for players to get over injuries/surgeries faster but also to recover from their workouts with greater ease.

    Another reader commented about how Fehr was a huge anti-steroid testing proponent. Unfortunately, it may have scarred baseball for a long time. I think Fehr would be smart enough to learn his lessons from baseball.

  36. Simone says:

    15 months? Gawd – has it really been that long? Wow. And, shame on me for being so snippy.
    Please accept my terribly late apology. The PD article was really good, and I’ll take off my
    rose-colored visor.

  37. liverning says:

    I think you have to be crazy to think that there is little/no PEDing going on in pro hockey. Guys routinely come back from serious injuries very, very quickly. You don’t think that an injured player ‘feels the heat’ to get back as quickly as possible? If he is a low tier/middle of the pack guy, his job could be gone if he stays out too long. To a star, missed games just makes ‘hitting their bonuses that much harder’.

    I recall when the Capitals steriods story broke (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/hockey/nhl/04/20/nhl.steroids/index.html)
    The NHL basically denied it and moved on…

    Is it really that hard to get a good ‘working’ PED testing procedure/policy in place?
    Is it too expensive to be cutting edge and done routinely?
    Does the Players Associations play the ‘invasion of privacy’ card here?

    Justin, these are the types of articles keep me coming back… Kudos!
    P.S. I will scan the Phoenix papers, if I see anything about a ‘hockey blogger missing’, I’m calling the Feds…
    Errr… Maybe!

  38. @Xenolord

    I understand your thinking, believe me. After everything baseball has gone through with steroids and PED’s I just can’t see people going down that road, especially the stars of the league. I do believe that there will always be some form of cheating going on, it’s part of sports, and no matter what testing is available, the players will always find ways to circumvent them.

    I still think regardless of PED’s these players are amazing to watch, and I will not stop watching because of an unproven rhetoric.

  39. Angry Fan says:

    Good article. PEDs are as or more useful in hockey than other sports, given the combination of speed, strength, stamina, aerobics, physical injury, etc.

    In addition to HGH and steriods, EPO and other drugs enhancing oxygen uptake and delivery are of real benefit.

    There is NO good excuse for any league/organization NOT to have WADA do the testing. The only reason not to is that the leagues KNOW (or suspect) that bad stuff is going on and they wish the extent of it to remain in-house.

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  1. [...] Bourne specifically said that is not what he intended: “…I hope it spurs somewhat of an epiphany for people – it’s not a crisis in our sport, but to beat a cliche, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So prevent, damnit, prevent!” (Getting Out Ahead Of It) [...]



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