Random drug testing planned

Updated: July 15, 2005, 12:45 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- NHL players will be subject to random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, and will face stiff penalties after one infraction.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' association, which still needs ratification, players would be subject to a minimum of two drug tests a year without advance warning. A first-time offender would receive a 20-game suspension, a 60-game suspension would be given to a repeat offender, and a player would face a permanent ban from the NHL if caught a third time.

"This was not an area of contention between the parties," players' association senior director Ted Saskin told The Associated Press on Friday in an e-mail. "We have never had problems in this area in our sport."

The Canadian Press first reported the new policy on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the 301st day of the NHL lockout, the league and the players' association agreed in principle on a new six-year pact. The deal is expected to be ratified by both sides next week.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players' association executive director Bob Goodenow suggested the league and union would introduce such a drug policy after they appeared before a U.S. congressional hearing on steroid use in May.

Previously, only players that voluntarily entered the league's substance-abuse program were subject to testing. There has never been a testing policy for performance-enhancing drugs.

The NFL has increased from two to six the number of random offseason tests a player can face. A first positive test draws a four-game suspension for a player, and a second earns a six-game suspension.

Baseball banned steroids in September 2002 and instituted mandatory 10-day suspensions this season. Commissioner Bud Selig has suggested that starting in 2006, major league players be given 50-game suspensions for a first positive test for steroids, 100-game penalties for a second positive test and lifetime bans for a third.

The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement increases penalties for steroid violators, from five to 10 games for a first offense, 25 games for a second, one year for a third offense and a lifetime ban for a fourth.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press