The NHL’s drug testing could be expanded to include tests for cocaine by the end of the season, according to a report.
TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reported Monday afternoon that the NHL drug tests for cocaine use could be in place as soon as the end of the 2015-16 season. Lavoie added that nothing is finalized yet, and the NHL and NHL Players’ Association hasn’t yet come to an agreement on the tests.
According to Lavoie, who reiterated that the details of possible punishment were not yet finalized, a positive test would not be met with suspension, but rather with help through the NHL and NHLPA’s substance abuse program. Suspensions could be handed down, however, if a player needed to progress to Stage Two of the program. Stage Two of the program is “reserved for players who have experienced earlier problems and have failed to comply with their after-care program,” according to the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey.
Cocaine became a hot-button issue in the off-season when New York Rangers center Jarret Stoll, then with the Los Angeles Kings, was arrested in Las Vegas in April and subsequently charged with felony cocaine possession. Stoll’s charges were later dismissed and reduced to two misdemeanors in late June. Stoll’s arrest was also followed by comments from Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Viktor Loov, who told Swedish news outlet LT that there is “a lot of cocaine” in the NHL.
Before the 2015-16 season began, TSN’s Rick Westhead spoke to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who said he would be shocked if more than 20 players in the league would test positive for cocaine before adding the league doesn’t test for the drug in a “comprehensive way.”
"The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they're going up," Daly told Westhead. "I wouldn't say it's a crisis in any sense. What I'd say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you've hit a cycle where it's an 'in' drug again.”
Per the CBA, changes can only be made to the prohibited substances list “as negotiated between the NHL and the NHLPA.”
“I think there’s some usage,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon in October. “It’s not representative of an overwhelming number of our players. We’re in a dialogue with the Players’ Association to address it. My interest is not to go around punishing people. My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”