LARAQUE: NHL STEROID USE WIDESPREAD?

EdmontonOilers2

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.

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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

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“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.

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“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, ranging in what is tested and how it is administered which you can read more about if you go to this linkfrom 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.

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“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.


  • 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???

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    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.

  • 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.

    • Or, just for the hell of it, you could start paying attention before mounting the soap box. The following is from me (comment 23) above:

      “I’d like to know what, if any, role the training staffs of NHL teams have played in the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

      Is it a case of team staff looking the other way while players acquire and use substances, or has there been active participation?

      “Who,” in terms of players isn’t necessarily the biggest issue. “How” might prove to be the real story when all this unfolds.”

      Your choice of the word “rat” is interesting. And do tell, how might I take a more “noble” stance and assist the problem moving forward? Wouldn’t want to drag people through the mud by identifying who actually took dope, even if they’re still involved in the game and might be still doing it, right?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    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.

  • 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.

    • John Chambers

      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.

      • I’d like to know what, if any, role the training staffs of NHL teams have played in the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

        Is it a case of team staff looking the other way while players acquire and use substances, or has there been active participation?

        “Who,” in terms of players isn’t necessarily the biggest issue. “How” might prove to be the real story when all this unfolds.

        • John Chambers

          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.

    • BArmstrong

      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.

  • 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!!

      • BArmstrong

        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?

        • 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.

          • I have read the Benoit stories a dozen of times! I suppose I can say concussions also played a part in his break down, or the fact his child suffered from a medical condition that through him over the edge!

            get real, to say that steroids were the sole reason he flipped out! thats week and you know it! same with davey boy smith and any other wrestlers who decide to kill themselves.

            I guess the 200 plus MLB players who use PED in the next few years are going to decide to kill them selves and there families as well.

            come on now your better then that David.

          • No, I suppose you’re quite right. Self (usually) administration of large doses PED’s of questionable quality over prolonged periods of time have absolutely NO quantifiable side-effects. And they’re certainly not an underlying contributor to any number of “documented” medical conditions or “known” changes in human psychological behavior as a result of said PED abuse.

            Yep. I stand soundly convinced the above-mentioned description is directly and irrefutably comparable to medically monitored and administered steroid use.

            You sir, win.

        • You said you were a health professional but because of this question I seriously doubt you are. Heart disease is the most commonly known side effect but steroids can increase the risk of cancer, liver disease, and high blood pressure. Many people in this world are already predisposed to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. So why take the risk of significantly increasing the likelihood of dying. I remember a pro bodybuilder who went to my gym and he took HGH and testosterone. He ended up in the hospital due to a heart attack and also had issues with his liver. They told him he had to stop due to the abuse of these drugs.

          The big problem is like with many drugs addiction is a risk because they make you feel strong when you use them. Again most people who use them never go through an ethical licensed physician. They buy it from some drug dealer scum bag and then they get a lot of poor uneducated info on the uses and effects of PEDs. It is the same issues that effect any other illegal drugs.

          • I suggest you look up steroids and there short and long term effects, plus the prescribed medications ( certain steroids) that are used in cancer care. and other forms of care that steroids are used in.

            I never said anywhere in my post that I support the abuse of steroids, I simply said that steroids are not the cause of killing people!!!! read the post before you accuse me of saying something I never did!!

            I said steroid and other PED’s taken responsible can be as safe as most other prescribed medications in fact one could argue taken correctly they could benefit certain people! where did I refute the sort term or long term ABUSE of steroid or PED’s??? Your talking out you A$$ and looking for an argument.
            PS.
            I really don’t care if you think I’m in the medical profession or not.

  • 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

    • Jason Gregor

      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.

      • VMR

        Not so sure about that. He was on the team for that season but the team just snuck into the playoffs. He was a monster in the playoffs. Could he have started juicing up once the Olympics were over and the threat of testing was done? Possible, but the problem of course is that it’s all rumour and innuendo without any actual names.

        It casts a shadow over everyone who played with and/or against Laraque. There are the stories of Messier and sudafed, Fuhr and cocaine, would it really be a surprise if more Oilers have been (or possibly are) using?

        • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

          “It casts a shadow over everyone who played with and/or against Laraque. There are the stories of Messier and sudafed, Fuhr and cocaine, would it really be a surprise if more Oilers have been (or possibly are) using?”

          These guys are 20 year old millionaires. Not only would it not be a surprise, but chances are a fair amount of them do have some form of substance abuse problems, whether it be steroids, pain killers, cocaine, alcahol etc.

          That goes for teams other than the Oilers too.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    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.

  • 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.