National Hockey League players soon will undergo mandatory drug testing if the owners and players accept a joint recommendation announced today by John Ziegler, president of the NHL, and Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players Association.
"Al may have some resistance and I may have some resistance, but I'll be surprised if we have a majority of opposition on either side," Ziegler said of a plan to have the league and NHLPA jointly supervise drug testing.
The proposal will be presented June 10 in Toronto, when representatives of owners and players meet to begin negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement.
Ziegler and Eagleson acknowledged that the impetus for the drug-testing recommendation came from the recent article in Sports Illustrated that said several unnamed members of the Edmonton Oilers had used illegal drugs. Both used the term "McCarthyism" in discussing the Sports Illustrated story.
"There is no evidence of any type of drug use of the kind that has surfaced in other sports, but we have great concern for guilt by innuendo," Eagleson said. "This has become a dominant issue in the last two weeks and we felt we had to do something now to counterract it."
Ziegler emphasized that the proposal contained no provisions for rehabilitation, although he said that something could evolve when the issue is discussed.
The NHL always has said it was clean and has promised swift punishment for those caught using drugs. Lengthy suspensions were issued to Don Murdoch and Ric Nattress, the only players convicted of drug use.
Ziegler said his office was investigating the case of Borje Salming, the Toronto defenseman who recently said he had experimented with drugs in the past. Ziegler said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police looked into the accusations involving the Edmonton players and "found no reliable evidence to conduct an investigation."