NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a U.S. House subcommittee on Wednesday that hockey is not plagued by steroid use among its players.
Bettman joined his major-league counterparts — baseball commissioner Bud Selig, NBA commissioner David Stern and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — in Washington where he testified that only one player has tested positive for steroid use in the 2½ years since the NHL resumed play after the 2004-05 lockout.
"As a historical matter, the many years that NHL players have been tested in international competition, as well as recent testing under our program, suggests that performance-enhancing drugs had never been part of the culture of the NHL and that instances of use by our players have been extremely rare," Bettman told the House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection during his opening remarks.
"This is not surprising when one considers the alleged benefits of steroid use, significant large muscle development, are not consistent with playing hockey at the highest level of the sport, and the resulting bulkiness attributable to steroid use simply is not the desired characteristic of skilled NHL players."
Bettman went on to outline the NHL's drug-testing policy, in which a player is suspended 20 games for a first violation, 60 games for a second violation and a permanent ban for a third violation.
Bettman told the subcommittee that the NHL and the players union have worked together "to develop an effective and meaningful program."
"The prevention and detection of the use of performance-enhancing drugs is a matter that the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association takes quite seriously," Bettman said.
"Indeed, while our historical experience indicates that performance-enhancing drugs are not a problem in the NHL, we nevertheless agree that the public at large and our fans in particular are entitled to have confidence that our games are being played in an environment free of performance-enhancing substances."
Paul Kelly, head of the NHLPA, echoed Bettman's sentiments, saying that "the stakes are high and we are fully committed to seeing that drug use has no place in hockey."
Before the league commissioners and other union heads had a chance to speak, members of the subcommittee delivered their opening statements, with some supporting the idea of the U.S. federal government legislating standard drug-testing policies for pro sports leagues.
"Federal legislation in this area is not necessary for the NBA. Nor do I believe that a uniform, federally mandated approach to drug testing for all sports leagues would be appropriate," said Stern.
Wednesday's panel is not connected to the House committee that held hearings on Jan. 15 on former Senate majority leader George Mitchell's investigation into drugs in baseball and where Roger Clemens denied on Feb. 13 that he had used steroid and human growth hormone as alleged in the Mitchell report.