When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wasn’t fielding questions about the Phoenix/Hamilton mess, he touched on a variety of other topics during his pre-Cup final press conference today.
One such issue was the steroid accusations against the Washington Capitals and the future of the league’s drug testing program.
“There were no specifics to the allegations other than someone who got arrested said without naming any particular people or players,” Bettman said. “No one is certain, based on what we’ve been able to learn so far, that there is anything there, but because we take this entire matter very seriously — the matter of performance-enhancing drugs — we are investigating.”
“We don’t believe there is a performance-enhancing drug problem in this league, but I acknowledge that our testing program could be more comprehensive and it is time, we believe, that the players’ association step up and agree to make the changes that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recommended that we make to make the program even more comprehensive than it is.”
When pressed on the issue of out-of-season drug testing, here’s what the commissioner had to say:
“The players’ association has not been ready to embrace it, but Paul Kelly has indicated that he supports it and I take him at his word,” Bettman said. “He believes he needs some time to persuade him members to go along with it, but I think we need to be more comprehensive both in terms of the calendar on which we test and the substances for which we are testing. Both Paul and I testified before Congress not too long ago that we both believe in having the strongest possible program. I still believe it. I want it, but I need the players’ association to be a willing partner in that regard.”
UPDATE: The NHLPA released a statement from Paul Kelly in reaction to Bettman’s comments:
“The NHLPA will be discussing drug testing with our membership this summer,” Kelly said. “The NHL did not want to include playoff testing when the joint program was first collectively bargained back in 2005 as they deemed that the testing would be a distraction, and that is an area the league has now indicated they would like to review with the NHLPA. The NHLPA will indeed discuss this matter further with our members at our player meetings in June.
“The league has also indicated they would like to begin off-season testing, and that is another topic we will discuss with our members as well. There has been testing of NHL players for the past four seasons and also testing at each of the last three Olympics and numerous International hockey competitions. While we continue to review the program and discuss modifications with our members, we are pleased with how the program has operated to date.”