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Does NHL have a steroid problem?

World Doping Agency chief insists use may be widespread

LONDON, Ontario — The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency said he suspects as many as a third of the NHL's 700 players may take some form of performance-enhancing substances.

"I spoke with Gary (NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) and he said, 'We don't have the problem in hockey,"' Dick Pound told the London Free Press on Thursday in an interview for a story to be published Friday. "I told him he does. You wouldn't be far wrong if you said a third."

Asked if he meant performing-enhancing drugs, the Montreal lawyer replied, "Yes."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly took exception to Pound's comments.

"I would respectfully suggest that Mr. Pound's comments have absolutely no basis in fact," Daly told The Canadian Press. "I find it troubling, to say the least, that he would find it necessary to comment on something he has absolutely no knowledge of.

"Perhaps Mr. Pound would be better served to limit his comments to topics as to which he has knowledge, instead of speculating on matters as to which he has none."

Ted Saskin, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, also bristled at Pound's comments.

"Dick Pound's comments are incredibly irresponsible and have no basis in fact," Saskin told The Canadian Press. "He has no knowledge of our sport and our players and frankly has no business making such comments."

The NHL introduced random tests for performance-enhancing drugs in its new collective bargaining agreement. Players are subject to a minimum of two tests a year without warning. A first-time offender gets a 20-game suspension, a second offense calls for a 60-game suspension, and a third offense results in a lifetime ban.

"The NHL has reached a deal with their players that looks as though they found an early copy of the baseball policy on the floor somewhere," Pound said Thursday after addressing students at the University of Western Ontario's law school.