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Berard still eligible to play in NHL

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Blue Jackets defenseman Bryan Berard
accepted a two-year suspension from international competition for
taking a banned steroid, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Friday.

Since the test Berard failed wasn't part of NHL testing, he
won't be subject to league discipline.

Bryan Berard Berard

A sample taken from Berard on Nov. 12 tested positive for
19-norandrosterone, a steroid that helps athletes add strength and
muscle and lose weight. The sample was collected after his name was
submitted by USA Hockey as a potential Olympic participant.

"No question, I'm embarrassed about it," Berard said after
practice Friday. "There's nothing I can do about it now, other
than accepting what I've done. We'll learn from it, it was a
mistake and it won't happen again."

The suspension began Jan. 3, the day Berard accepted a
provisional suspension, USADA said.

Berard said the steroid was a supplement that he took to get
ready for the NHL season. He said he requested another test on
Sunday that shows the substance is no longer in his body. Sources also told The Canadian Press that after Berard failed the November test, he voluntarily took two tests administered by the NHL and NHL Players' Union and passed both.

He would not answer questions on how long or how much of the
substance he took.

His teammates were not permitted to discuss the suspension.

"He was quick to acknowledge that he made a really dumb
mistake," said Travis Tygart, the USADA's general counsel. USADA
is based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Berard has agreed to cooperate with USADA and participate in
programs to inform athletes and the public about the dangers of
taking steroids.

"I have spoken with Bryan and he expressed great remorse,"
said Ted Saskin, the players' association executive director, in a
statement. "I remain confident that this is an isolated occurrence
in our sport, and our new NHL/NHLPA testing program will
demonstrate to our fans that the players' association and the
league are focused on ensuring that our sport is free of
performance enhancing substances."

Berard wasn't chosen last month by USA Hockey for the team that
will compete in the Turin Games in February.

The NHL began testing for performance-enhancing drugs on Sunday
for the first time after the league and the players' association
came up with a plan in the new collective bargaining agreement that
ended the season-long lockout.

"While today's announcement relating to Bryan Berard certainly
is disappointing, it does nothing to change the fact that the use
of steroids is not a pervasive problem facing the National Hockey
League," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Mr.
Berard is one of hundreds of players who, as a result of being
identified as potential Olympic candidates, have been subject to
random testing for the past several months.

"There have been dozens of tests administered to a wide
cross-section of our players during this time period and Mr.
Berard's is the only positive test of which we are aware."

Stiff penalties have been established for players who fail
NHL-administered drug testing. A first-time offender would be
suspended for 20 games, a second positive test would result in a
60-game ban, while a three-time offender would be kicked out of the
league permanently.

Doug MacLean, Blue Jackets president and general manager, said
the test results were a valuable lesson.

"People make mistakes. I make lots of them, we all make lots of
them -- that's the way I'm approaching it and I'm going to support
Bryan 100 percent," he said.

Should Berard fail an NHL test in the future he would be treated
as a first-time offender.

"Mr. Berard's eligibility for play in the National Hockey
League is not impacted by this positive drug test," Daly said.
"We are confident that with the introduction of our new
collectively-bargained performance enhancing substances Program,
including the educational, testing and penalty elements that are
part of that program, the use of banned substances by any NHL
players will be eradicated in short order."

Berard signed a two-year contract with Columbus in August after
playing nine seasons for Toronto, the New York Rangers, Boston,
Chicago and the New York Islanders. He was the 1997 NHL rookie of
the year with the Islanders and won the Masterton Trophy in 2004
for best exemplifying the qualities of hockey. He was severely
injured in 2000 when he was hit in the eye with a stick. He missed
the rest of that season and the following one and still has reduced
vision in the eye.

In 2003-04, Berard had 13 goals and 34 assists with Chicago,
giving him more points than any other Western Conference
defenseman.