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    Friday, February 13, 1998

    NHL: Olympic suspensions may carry over

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Commissioner Gary Bettman said today that any players suspended during the nine-day Olympic hockey tournament risk having the suspensions carried over when the NHL season resumes Feb. 25.
     Normally, hockey's various governing bodies do not honor each other's suspensions. Anaheim's Ruslan Salei was the first NHL player to score a goal in these Olympics after a two-game suspension for a head-butt Feb. 1 against Chicago allowed him to arrive early in Nagano.
     But Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke, who holds the same role with Canada in the Olympics, suggested the NHL would be wise to protect its players from injuries by honoring any Olympic suspensions.
     "If the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) takes (disciplinary) action ... it's something we'll have to look at coming back," Bettman said. "We might decide to make the same determination. Each case has to be decided (on its own merits), how it is handled."
     The Olympic tournament began without Canadian forward Paul Kariya, who suffered a concussion in that Feb. 1 Blackhawks-Mighty Ducks game when flattened by Chicago's Gary Suter. Suter, is playing on the U.S. team, wasn't penalized on the play but later received a four-game suspension from the NHL.
     Because the IIHF doesn't honor the NHL's suspensions, Suter is playing in the Olympics. Bettman said the disciplinary action against Suter might have been more severe had the NHL not received a positive medical report on Kariya at the time.
     "At first, it was thought he would be out only one or two games," Bettman said.
     Neither the NHL nor the IIHF will have any say if any players are banned for using Sudafed, an ove-the-counter cold medicine that is prohibited by the IOC but reportedly is commonly used in the NHL.
     IIHF President Rene Fasel said he expects players to follow the ban, but warned that any players detected using the drug risk having their team banned from the medal round.
     International play governed by the IIHF requires three positive drug tests for a suspension, but the IOC has what essentially is a zero-tolerance policy, and a single positive drug can disqualify a team from the medal round.
     However, Fasel and NHL Players Association chief Bob Goodenow guaranteed there will be no Olympic suspensions for marijuana, unlike like the overturned ban on Canadian gold medalist snowboarder Ross Rebagliati.
     "We don't control marijuana. Marijuana is not on our list," Fasel said.
     Do any NHL players competing in the games use marijuana?
     "Absolutely not," Goodenow said.
     "Case closed," Fasel said.
     Asked if the NHL would shut down again in 2002 to accommodate the Salt Lake City Games, Bettman said the league's Olympic experiment would be evaluated after the season is over.
     But, noting the Salt Lake Olympics would be less disruptive because NHL players would not have to travel as far, Bettman suggested there is a strong possibility it will continue.
     "The Olympics has become the best of the best in all sports," he said. "There is no reason this sport shouldn't be at the same level, the best against the best."