BUFFALO -- Montreal goalie Jose Theodore has tested positive for a banned substance in pre-Olympic screening because he was using a hair-growth drug that can be used as a masking agent, the Canadiens' team doctor said Thursday.
The test wasn't part of the NHL's new testing program, so he will not be subject to league discipline.
Theodore was not picked for Canada's Olympic team but was on the preliminary 81-player eligibility list. No punishment was handed down because he is appealing the result to an arbitrator.
Canadiens team doctor David Mulder said at a news conference that Theodore was tested Dec. 12. A month later, the Hockey Canada doctor informed Mulder about Theodore's test result.
Mulder said Theodore tested positive because the goalie has been taking Propecia, a hair-growth stimulant, for about eight years -- even though he has a full head of hair. Mulder said he was aware that Theodore was taking the Propecia.
Propecia, Mulder said, was placed on the banned substance list about two years ago. Besides helping grow hair, it is considered a masking agent for other performance enhancers.
Mulder stressed Propecia alone is not a performance enhancer.
He said he was "convinced" the goalie was not using the drug to mask the use of performance enhancers.
Theodore, speaking after Montreal's 3-2 overtime win at Buffalo, said he began using the stimulant to preserve what remains a full head of hair.
"I always like my hair real long and I like to keep it long as long as possible," said Theodore, who served as backup against the Sabres as Cristobal Huet made his fifth consecutive start.
"I don't feel I have anything to hide," Theodore said. "It's not something that I got on the black market. It was a prescription from the doctor for eight years, so I don't feel uncomfortable by anything."
Theodore noted he had never tested positive before despite competing in several international tournaments. He added he was only made aware of Propecia being placed on the banned list in October.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that Theodore also faces no sanctions for future positive tests for Propecia because the goalie had already applied for an exemption for prescribed use.
NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin said the union would back Theodore in his appeals process.
"It is very clear that Jose Theodore is taking Propecia for the sole purpose of treating hair loss," Saskin said in a released statement.
Last month, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Bryan Berard was suspended from international competition for two years after testing positive for a banned steroid. Berard didn't make the U.S. Olympic team. He was also not subject to league discipline.
Earlier Thursday, World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound repeated his criticism of the NHL's drug-testing program at press conference in Torino, Italy.
The NHL introduced random tests for performance-enhancing drugs this season, but anti-doping authorities have attacked the plan as weak and ineffective.
"It amounts to practically nothing. There are no offseason tests. And you're not allowed to test a player after a game or before a game," Pound said.
Theodore is 17-15 this season with a 3.46 goals-against average but has struggled over the last month and a half, with a 4-9 record and a 4.06 GAA.
Canadiens GM/coach Bob Gainey was impressed by Theodore's
approach in addressing questions about his positive test firsthand.
"We were hoping it was going to be taken care of at this
arbitration and it would disappear," Gainey said. "When it came
out in the public domain, the decision to release the information
that it was Jose Theodore was the best way to approach it."
Theodore added that one look at his slim build -- he's listed at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds -- is proof that he's not taking steroids.
"If you look at me with no shirt, if I'm taking steroids then I should change the guy that's selling them to me because it's not working," Theodore said.