Friday, January 27, 2006

Hockey and Steroids

Time to weigh in on the whole steriods thing, and I'll mention the Bryan Berard case specifically at the end. First off, a quote from Terry Frei in ESPN:

No way. Not in this sport.

For one thing, taking to the ice with a juiced-up body isn't a significant advantage -- or any advantage at all -- for the most part, and it even can be counterproductive, given the strain skating puts on the muscles.

I hope this is a joke, but reading the rest of the article, it's clear it's meant seriously. Now I ain't no doctor (but I'm married to a nurse) but even this feeble engineer's brain can contemplate that PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) can be advantageous in hockey. Take me, for example. I'm a skinny bastard, about 5-11, 155 lbs. If I dedicated my life to hockey, and depended on it for my living, and I needed to gain 25 pounds, PEDs could help me do that with a lot less effort than going to Gold's for 4 hours a day. Would I be "juiced up"? Certainly. Would I look like Lou Ferrigno? No. I'm sure I could 'roid it up until I was 240, but that wouldn't help me play hockey much, would it? I hope Mr. Frei isn't implying that once you take steriods, you suddenly turn into some muscle-laden meathead. Steroids help you gain muscle when you work out. Change the workout, change the results.

I had to search around the web for about 45 seconds before I found Ryan Franklin. Franklin was suspended by Major League Baseball for steroid use, and is 6-3, 190 lbs. That's not real big, but can anyone argue that 6-3, 190 is worse than 6-3, 180 if you play a pro sport?

On to Bryan Berard. He tested positive, but as the AP story says:
The test the 28-year-old Berard failed wasn't part of the NHL's new testing program that began Sunday, so he will not be subject to league discipline.
To me this makes sense, done deal. You can't just apply rules after the fact.

It's hard for me to work up righteous indignation about the steriods thing, regardless of the sport. I think the basis behind all the uproar is some delusional idea that sports (especially baseball) stay constant over time, only the players change. Maybe it works a little bit for baseball, but other sports it's pretty ridiculous. No NFL lineman in the 1960's would even get a tryout today- they're all too small. You can be a 6-9 point guard in the NBA. Let's face it, the players today are better, more prepared, than players of eons past. Trancendental talent can transcend time, but in general, players are just better.

And part of being better is having more tools and knowledge of training. Like it or not, that includes steriods. It's these guys' very livelihood to be better, faster, stronger, than the other guy. There will always be someone willing to sacrifice long-term health for short-term success. I have very little faith that the cutting-edge testing methods will outpace cutting-edge chemicals. There's just too much money in the chemicals.


Jeremy Teigiser said...

Mike, I've enjoyed catching up on your blog over the past couple days (one of them gave me a sort of deja vu).
I believe that your take, and that of Mr. Frei, is a little off. The biggest drug issue the NHL faces is not steroids, but rather amphetamines. Under the international definition of performance enhancing drugs, amphetamines are listed. Now amphetamines (and like you, I'm no doctor) are used for an andrenaline substitute.
To paraphrase John Buccigross, is it possible that a guy playing his 4th game in 6 nights is going to need a boost? Absolutely. The wear-and-tear of the NHL (game and travel) are unlike any other sport - and because of that, guys are going to need/use little pick-me-ups. It is amphetamine use that the NHL needs to be concerned about, and address.

Mike said...

Good call. I should have used the more generic "PEDs" where I said steriods in most places in this post. But amphetamines have another set of issues. Do we really want to be testing player for Sudafed?