The NHL Players’ Association is in the midst of an interesting internal debate over how to deal with screening for what the league and union term "drugs of abuse," such as cocaine or marijuana.
As it stands now, all player tests are screened for performance-enhancing drugs, but only one-third of tests include screenings for recreational drugs.
The league would like all tests to include the screening for drugs of abuse, but it would require changing the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
It’s important for the NHLPA to have buy-in from its membership as a whole to make this change, but it’s difficult to imagine that the players wouldn’t want testing for as wide a scale of drugs -- recreational or performance-enhancing -- as possible.
In terms of PEDs, it should be vital to the players that cheaters are caught and weeded out to ensure a level playing field.
As for drugs of abuse, if players are going to get help, it can’t be left to those who are using to seek help on their own or for the teams to identify problems. If all players are subject to the full screening process the chances improve that those who have issues with drugs will get help.
In the wake of Jarret Stoll's arrest in the offseason for possession of cocaine and MDMA and the arrest of former Los Angeles Kings teammate Mike Richards with what is believed to be OxyContin (or Oxycodone as it is also known) at the Canada/U.S. border, it would seem a no-brainer that the players’ association would want to move swiftly and unequivocally to ensure that whatever drug problems players are facing are identified and dealt with. That’s not happening under the current system and the players have a chance to fix that.
Whether the players will reach a consensus and then work out an agreement with the league to alter the current format should be decided in the coming weeks, although it’s too early to tell whether we could see changes to the system by the end of this season.