Former NHLer Laraque calls for blood testing

In an interview with Hockey Night In Canada Radio's Gord Stellick on Thursday, former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque explained his proposal for the league to implement mandatory blood testing for its players.

Georges Laraque is calling for an upheaval in the National Hockey League's drug testing policy.

In an interview with Hockey Night In Canada Radio's Gord Stellick on Thursday, the former NHL enforcer explained his proposal for the league to implement blood testing for its players.

While talking about his new book, Georges Laraque: The Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy, the 34-year-old described what he believes to be the benefits of a more stringent form of testing, as opposed to the current system in which players are subject to up to two randomized drug tests per season — predominantly for performance-enhancing substances.

"Through blood testing, you can see other substances that guys are taking, other drugs that guys are taking that you can't see through peeing in a cup," said the Montreal native. "You can see how many guys are suffering in silence, that are taking substances that we don't know [about]. And blood testing is way more precise and there is more stuff we're able to see through that."

Laraque not only believes broadening the scope of drug testing will clean up the game, more importantly he says it will be beneficial to the health and safety of the players.

"… In the NHL we're supposed to be invincible and not show that we have weakness," he said, "Because if you do, and the team knows about it, maybe they'll get rid of you, maybe they're going to trade you, so [guys] don't say anything. By doing blood testing we would know about some of the guys that may be suffering in silence and by [implementing blood testing] I think it would help out and maybe prevent anything more to happen."

Laraque referenced the deaths in the summer of three former NHL players — Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard — which he believes may have been prevented had the league already implemented his proposed system.

Rypien, a former Vancouver Canuck forward, suffered from depression and committed suicide in August. Boogaard, a member of the New York Rangers, was found dead in May due to an accidental overdose, while Belak had suffered from bouts of depression in the past, his mother Lorraine confirmed to CBC News in September.

"If we did blood testing, it's not just for steroids, it's to detect any drug that could harm guys and could kill guys," Laraque said, "And we had those three guys that passed away in the summer that died from other stuff, [in some cases] other drugs. So the peeing in the cup that the NHL has right now is not detecting enough [substances]."

Laraque also acknowledged that blood testing couldn't prevent or solve depression, but said he thinks it could at least identify some of the warning signs.

"No it can't detect depression," he said, "But there are some substances guys can be taking, some drugs, because they're fighting depression that we don't know about.

"There's something we have to do. If somebody has a better idea than that to try to help guys, we have to come forward and talk about it because so far we haven't done anything."