By now, most everyone has heard about the allegations leveled against members of the Washington Capitals organization by Douglas Nagel, a chiropractor who is charged with selling performance enhancing drugs. Nagel has an office next to the Capitals’ practice facility, and the team has acknowledged that some of their players had chiropractic work done at his office. Law enforcement confirms that Nagel had clients who were NHL players.

Before I get into the specifics of this instance, I should acknowledge that I believe both steroids and other substances are used by at least a few NHL players. The use of stimulants is widespread and has been acknowledged by many, and there have been whispers that NHL players have used other substances as well. Former cup-of-coffee NHL tough guy Dave Morissette admitted that he used steroids, and although he declined to name other players he said that the use of steroids is common. Those thoughts aren’t confined to Morissette, as other players have acknowledged they believe it is an issue, although there isn’t a consensus that it’s a problem in the NHL.

The NHL’s rather lax drug testing policy has caught one player, Sean Hill, who was suspended 20 games in the spring of 2007 for violating the league’s performance enhancing substances policy. Even that case should be marked with an asterisk; Hill has maintained his innocence, and in an attempt to clear his name had another test performed by an independent lab and undergone a polygraph test – both of which he passed. More notable than Hill was Bryan Berard, who was caught by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency rather than the NHL, and thus faced no NHL sanctions for taking a banned substance. Berard admitted his guilt, calling it a “mistake” and vowing never to use such substances again.

Put another way, the allegations in this story are not shocking. NHL players are normal human beings, and thus as prone to the same moral failings as other human beings, and they’re all competitive men trying to carve out a niche in the world’s toughest league. It would not be surprising to find some using performance enhancing drugs; it would be more surprising if none were.

That said, while this is a newsworthy story, and an area which is in my opinion underreported on, it would be wrong to come to any conclusions at this point about either the Capitals as an organization or the players as individuals. No charges have been laid, and aside from statements made by a man facing a prison sentence (statements which contradict earlier statements by the same man) and some circumstantial evidence, there is no reason to think any differently about the team or its players.

That may change if more evidence is revealed. But for the time being, there simply isn’t enough evidence to form any conclusions.

Comments (5)

  1. Let’s say you’re a 3rd liner, playing for a new contract next year, and you blow out your knee. The doctor says it will be at least 8 months before you can start skating again, which means you more than likely don’t get that contract, OR, you can take a pill and be back on skates within 6 weeks and finish out the season. Which one do you choose?

    Let the debate begin!

  2. Well, my first question would be why the players are at a chiropractor in the first place, or are even allowed near one by the team physician. The benefits can be had elsewhere and the risk of losing a player to injuries/damage is sufficient that as a team owner I’d be damn hesitant about it. As for the performance enhancing substance abuse issue, I’m hesitant to make any judgments until I hear what it was. The one thing that’ we can be pretty sure about is that the hockey players who went to the Olympics are probably clean.Don’t know exactly what the level of certainty for that is though.

  3. I’ve always thought the NHL really missed a great marketing opportunity with all the steroids stuff going around pro sports. I mean, at any of the many points over the last few years when baseball was facing a steroid controvery or when the paranoia about steroids in the NFL was at it’s peak, even at any point when an NBA star was arrested for a drug-related offence, the NHL should’ve come out and taken a hard line stance and gone for the “cleanest sport around” label. Sure it would’ve irritated suits in the other major team sports, but I really think that back when people were still actually surprised and disappointed at hearing about steroids, especially in baseball, the sport could’ve picked up a few followers. Not that I think there’s no steroids in the NHL at all, but I do think the incidence is low enough that if the league had told the PA they were going to institute the toughest steroid policy in pro sports and followed through with it a season later, the handful of guys who were on them would’ve stopped before it came through. Now it’s too late, and cynicism about steroids is so high that fans just assume that half of everyone in sports is juicing, whether it’s true or not and no matter how harsh a drug policy a league has.

  4. if ovie doesn’t have a steroid face,and ive seen plenty,i will eat my comp,ive heard players say they believe ovies using steroids.

  5. The steroid debate is getting a little old. I have heard so much about it I dont even care who is doing it.

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