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Schmidt needs to be more action than words regarding NHL drug policy

Updated November 7, 2018 - 6:40 pm

Nate Schmidt says he wants to help, to enact change, to make things better, to create more transparency.

We shall see.

Such comments are all well and good, except for the part about the odds being stacked heavily against such desires.

Like, every book in the Library of Congress being placed on top of each other stacked.

And, well, if he actually acts on his words.

Schmidt skated with the Golden Knights in Ottawa on Wednesday, the next allowable step before he returns to the lineup Nov. 18 at Edmonton, when his 20-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy ends.

“You have to at this point accept (blame),” Schmidt said. “Once you accept the suspension, you take responsibility. As part of the Players Association, I hope to talk to as many guys as I can about my experience. I don’t want this to ever happen to anybody else and go through what I did. It’s not fair.”

It’s not a matter of fairness. Schmidt tested positive and the only impartial person throughout the appeals process and with all the evidence was an arbitrator who ruled against him.

That’s a matter of fact.

Schmidt is correct. He’s to blame. But what his suspension has done on a much broader and far more important level than merely taking from the Knights their best defenseman to begin a season is to shine a spotlight of disgust on unquestionably the worst drug program in sports.

The league’s current collective bargaining agreement runs through September of 2020, but the NHL and Players Association each have options to terminate the deal at different points in September of next year.

It is believed that things like escrow payments and revenue sharing are among the leading issues to be debated.

The fact this drug policy isn’t continues the charade of it all.

It’s not enough that Schmidt reminds fellow players to watch what they eat, to stay clear of certain meat products. He mentioned such a thing Wednesday — along with saying he recently went deer hunting and, “That’s where my meat will be coming (from) for the foreseeable future” — supporting one theory that Schmidt tested positive for clenbuterol and blamed it on tainted meat.

So is this just about warning guys away from some bad steak or really caring about legitimizing the drug program in which he was caught?

If he really didn’t cheat and truly wants change, Schmidt needs to champion a drug policy that begins with testing on game days, that administers far more than up to two “no-notice” tests annually with one conducted on a team-wide basis, that greatly increases its mandatory maximum of 60 offseason tests in a league of 700-plus players.

That, speaking of transparency, would allow a player like Schmidt to publicly discuss what he tested positive for and the specific date of his last test.

That his league gets real about this.

He needs to speak with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and challenge those within the association to demand such vast, sweeping amendments, because why wouldn’t every player want such changes so as to strengthen their argument that no deliberate cheating occurred?

Or does an association where just three players over a 10-year period were caught violating the policy — and not because countless more weren’t likely cheating — prefer the standard deny, deny, deny approach?

“It’s not (missing) the games or the money,” said Schmidt, whose suspension cost him approximately $482,258.28 in salary. “It’s the reputation. I couldn’t care less about the money and it sucks to miss games but, really, it’s about my character. But at the end of the day, if you can look in the mirror and know you didn’t do something, that’s the only thing that matters. I never did anything intentionally. I never tried to. It’s not in my DNA.

“I hope to help guys understand … If I have to be the guy that it happens to for it to never happen again, that’ll be OK with me. I can live with that.”

We’ll see.

To enact real change, Nate Schmidt must be about more action than words.

He likes to talk, is great at it, so this is his chance.

Let’s see if fellow players would listen and follow.

Or if they’re all just fine, for whatever nefarious reason or not, with the status quo of an absurd drug program.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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