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An NHL Milestone: Bryan Berard Flunks His Drug Test

By January 20, 2006

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The NHL has its first tainted urine sample. Bryan Berard of the Columbus Blue Jackets has failed a drug test, and will be banned from international hockey for two years.

It looks bad on Berard, obviously. But it could end up looking even worse on the National Hockey League. Berard cannot be suspended by the NHL, because he didn't fail an NHL drug test. He gave his sample to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which handles doping discipline for the Olympics and other international events.

Is Bryan Berard that most evil of 21st century sports villains - the drug cheat - or just a careless dummy who didn't read the labels of his nutritional supplements? Is he an anomaly or the tip of Dick Pound's iceberg? Should he be suspended by the NHL for failing someone else's drug test? Will the ethical standards of professional sport collapse if a convicted doper takes a shift for the Blue Jackets? (Insert punch line here.)

So begins a debate that will likely be characterized by a lot of piety, hypocrisy, and no clear resolution. When someone flunks a drug test, it's always an opportunity for sports writers to climb their moral hobby-horse and start going on about "role models" and the violated dreams of "our kids" and the lily-white ideals of "our game" and the evils of those who dare to spoil that pretty little picture.

In the meantime, Bryan Berard will have his say at a news conference today. Stay tuned.

  • Update: The USADA confirms that Berard tested positive for 19-norandrosterone, classified as an anabolic steroid.
  • Update II: As expected, everyone involved is falling all over themselves to stick up for Bryan Berard as a first-class guy and an isolated case, including the NHL and NHL Players' Association. The NHL statement confirms that Berard's status in the league is not affected by the positive result.
  • From Bryan Berard: "I made a mistake that has resulted in this suspension and while unintentional, I take full responsibility. I became aware of the problem after the fact and for that I am disappointed in myself."

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