Quebec Hockey Doping-Free Sport Program

(Ottawa, Ontario – November 25, 2004) – The Quebec Midget AAA Development Hockey League, the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have recently put into place a doping-free sport program using the services of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). Questions have been raised regarding the program’s compliance with the Canadian Anti-Doping Program and the World Anti-Doping Code (Code). The CCES has prepared this advisory note to explain why the CCES views the anti-doping measures undertaken by the leagues as important and worthy of our involvement and attention. The CCES believes that these measures complement the government-funded Canadian Anti-Doping Program, the domestic testing program that applies to Canadian Olympic, Paralympic, university, college and other elite athletes. 

Athletes of the level competing in the three Quebec hockey leagues typically receive little or no anti-doping education and testing, as there are limits to the funding the Government of Canada is able to provide for doping-free sport. The contracts between the CCES, Hockey Quebec and the leagues provide the unique opportunity to extend an appropriate doping-free sport program to these athletes. These contracts include policy development and an anti-doping program tailored for each league. The modest testing component is principally aimed at supporting education and rehabilitation initiatives provided through separate contracts between Hockey Quebec, the leagues and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Without a testing program, education programs are less effective in preventing and deterring young players from using prohibited performance-enhancing substances. While the number of tests planned in each league is not substantial, it will still have a deterrent effect for teams and players alike.  

In virtually all respects, players subject to the Quebec hockey program will be treated no differently than the athletes who are tested under the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. Under the Quebec hockey program, players from the three leagues will be tested for the full range of prohibited substances as defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List. Samples will be collected by the CCES’ certified Doping Control Officers using exactly the same procedures and equipment that are used for Canadian Olympians, Paralympians and other elite athletes. Players in each league who commit anti-doping rule violations will be listed on the CCES registry (which is shared with the World Anti-Doping Agency), as is the case for elite athletes. These players will be prohibited from participating in hockey at other levels (such as the Canadian junior national team program or Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey), prohibited from participating in other sports in any capacity (such as university, college, Olympic or other recognized sports) and prohibited from competing internationally for Canada, for the same period as would any athlete subject to the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. In other words, they will be considered to have committed an anti-doping rule violation and will be subject to eligibility and funding consequences as if they were part of the high-level testing pool subject to the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. 

The anti-doping policies of these three leagues are in fact fully consistent with the Canadian Anti-Doping Program with one exception: a first anti-doping rule violation committed by a player under the Quebec hockey program will result in a suspension of between five and ten games instead of a two-year period of league ineligibility. After serving his suspension, a player will be eligible to return to his team, solely for the purpose of league play, and could only continue to compete in that context. The player will be subject to all other Code-compliant consequences as described above. 

There are several good reasons for the CCES to offer its support and services to the Quebec hockey program. First, unlike elite athletes of a similar age in other sports, the players in these leagues do not currently benefit from direct and appropriate anti-doping programs, yet they face the same pressures to use performance enhancing drugs and the same health consequences associated with their use. Since the players’ ages range from 15 to 20, and many still do not have full legal responsibility for their actions, the need for proper education on the health and other risks associated with doping is paramount. 

Second, many of these young hockey players will eventually play hockey at Canadian colleges and universities that are subject to the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. The Quebec hockey program provides excellent preparation for these athletes with respect to all of the requirements for doping-free sport set out in the policies of Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association. 

Third, the level of competition in these leagues is different than that for which the CCES is primarily funded. The focus of the Canadian Anti-Doping Program has always been national-level and international-level sport, where the full requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code are applied. Nevertheless, it is still the intention of the CCES to work with the Quebec hockey program so that it becomes fully compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code over time. In the meantime, this program will begin to instil in these young hockey players the sorts of values and commitment to ethical sport that they will carry into professional hockey careers. 

Finally, it should also be noted that as neither Hockey Quebec nor the leagues benefit from federal government funding, the leagues will bear the entire cost of implementing the testing program.  

The CCES believes in the value of supporting the Hockey Quebec’s responsible approach to the deterrence of doping among young hockey players. The CCES is pleased to be able to contribute its expertise to ensure that the rights of players are respected throughout the entire process and that appropriate actions are taken by the leagues in the event of an anti-doping rule violation. 

By supporting development leagues in their adoption of an anti-doping policy, the CCES is seizing a valuable opportunity to extend the reach of Canada’s domestic anti-doping program, and therefore the impact of the Code, down to lower levels of domestic sport. This approach represents a way of emphasizing ethical values in hockey and the health and safety of its players that will help open the door to dialogue on anti-doping with the National Hockey League. Bringing anti-doping programs to the development level and, ultimately, the professional levels of hockey will enhance the Code's influence on the entire Canadian sport system. 

The CCES is an independent, national, non-profit organization. Our mission, to promote ethical conduct in all aspects of sport in Canada, is carried out through research, promotion, education, detection and deterrence, as well as through programs and partnerships with other organizations.


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