Wednesday, January 28, 1998
Drug troubles loom large
Cold medicine may have NHLers in hot water in Nagano
The Toronto Sun has learned that the use of over-the-counter medications such as Sudafed, which contains the International Olympic Committee-banned stimulant pseudoephedrine, has not been an uncommon practice with some members of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
According to SI, which called the use of the drug the NHL's dirty little secret, two NHL trainers estimate that 20% of the league's players use Sudafed.
That estimate, however, may be a conservative one.
Three sources inside the Leafs' dressing room, including a player who has since been traded, told the Sun a number of players were using the drug to gain an adrenaline rush, particularly during team's charge to the Stanley Cup semi-finals in 1993 and 1994.
Team physician Dr. Michael Clarfield told the Sun a few seasons ago that the use of Sudafed as a performance-enhancer certainly was not uncommon with the Leafs, although Clarfield stressed he never condoned its use.
Randy Gregg, who is now a physician, told the Sun that some of his teammates on the great Edmonton teams of the 1980s would take two or three Sudafeds before a game to gain a boost.
Such a practice would result in a positive drug test at the Nagano Olympics and, as the rules stand right now, result in the player and the team being suspended from the Games.
"It was a great way for them to get a little more energy and a little more awareness," said Gregg, a defenceman who helped the Oilers to five Stanley Cups in the 1980s.
Detroit Red Wings trainer John Wharton told Sports Illustrated that "there are all kinds of overdose stories" associated with the use of the drug.
"Guys not being able to finish the first period because they get the shakes, (become) paranoid or (have) anxiety (attacks)," he said.
Dr. Christiane Ayotte, who heads the IOC-sanctioned laboratory in Montreal, told the Sun it is common for athletes using stimulants such as Sudafed to also ingest Tylenol 3 with codeine or valium to counter the shakes.
Ayotte listed other side-effects such as elevated blood pressure and irregular heart beat, warning that the drug is more dangerous when used in excess than the players know.
"Stimulants are very dangerous," she said.
"Even worse than what you have with anabolic steroids."
Pseudoephedrine affects the nervous system, speeding up the heart in the same manner amphetamines or huge doses of caffeine would.
For that reason, and because of the possible dangerous side-effects, it is banned by most amateur sports organizations, such as the IOC, but not by the NHL.