Georges Laraque, a former NHL tough guy who spent a dozen years in the world’s best hockey league with the Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Phoenix Coyotes, recently said it has a steroid problem. Laraque spent his 12 years fighting the league’s other “goons” or tough guys as well as his own personal battle against performance-enhancing drugs. He has come out in the open with his personal story and other details in his autobiography called “The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy.”

He said that many of the NHL’s fighters used performance-enhancing drugs when he broke into the league and he asked the NHL Players’ Association if they could take any action against it. He said players would take the drugs to become physically bigger and so they wouldn’t feel as much pain during on-ice fights.

Laraque said his job was hard enough as it was, but things were even tougher when he had to fight against guys that were juiced up and bulked up on steroids. He said the NHLPA listened to what he had to say about the problem, but didn’t do anything about it at that point due to political reasons. He said the association wanted to keep mandatory drug testing out of their collective bargaining with the NHL.

The 34-year-old Laraque definitely has the experience to be taken seriously since he fought a total of 131 times during regular season games and served 1,126 minutes in penalties. He said some of the league’s enforcers used illegal drugs as a way to numb their pain. He added that it was easy to tell who was using them because the signs were quite recognizable.

He said that it wasn’t just steroids that were being taken as other drugs were also going around. He said he was clean and fighting against drug users was very dangerous for all of the fighters who didn’t take illegal substances. Laraque said a drug like ephedrine would basically desensitize a player during a game and he wouldn’t feel any physical pain. He said during warm-ups he would take a look at the other team’s tough guy and if he noticed that his eyes were bulging and his arms were trembling then he was on something to numb the pain.

He said fighters usually cover their faces with a coat of Vaseline the same way boxers do so the punches will hopefully slide off their faces. But Laraque said it wasn’t just the tough guys that were taking performance-enhancing drugs. He said some of the league’s top-skilled players also took them, but he wouldn’t mention any names. He said you could tell who used them because every four years they’d suffer a weight and efficiency loss, since the Olympics were held every four years.

He said this is because players would stop taking the drugs before the Olympics because of the strict testing policies and would then start up again when the Games were over and they’d gain weight and start playing better. Laraque feels that most of the players knew who was taking drugs, but nobody would break the code of silence about it. He feels the league must continue fighting against the use of illegal drugs and be more proactive, especially since several former enforcers have died in the past few years.

Laraque said the NHL introduced a clear-cut policy against illegal substances during his last few years in the league and noticed how quickly some players lost weight immediately after it was implemented.


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