By Savannah Malnar
Hockey is not a sport in which performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) have ever been a large problem. In fact, up until Thursday, only two players since 2006 had been suspended for violating the National Hockey League’s PED policy. That number is now three, thanks to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton. And it’s an unusual story why.
Ashton tested positive for the use of the illegal substance Clenbuterol. The substance was originally developed as an asthma treatment, but since has been banned for its overuse by athletes as a fat-burner and muscle-definer. But Ashton claims he was not even aware he was using a banned substance; instead, he puts the blame on a borrowed inhaler.
Ashton states that he experienced an asthma attack while exercising in preparation for the upcoming NHL season and borrowed his training partner’s inhaler to remedy it. He was not aware there was any kind of PED or banned drug in the inhaler. In a statement released through the NHLPA, Ashton admitted to using the borrowed inhaler one more time during training camp while still unaware of the contents. In this statement he also said, “Unfortunately, I incorrectly assumed that there were no problems associated with the use of this inhaler and I used it without checking to see whether its contents were permissible under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.”
It truly seems believable that Ashton had no idea he was doing anything wrong. The media sees this and in multiple outlets can be found questioning the automatic 20-game suspension that has been issued under the NHL’s strict drug policy while at the same time admitting he made a mistake in taking an unknown medication (twice).
Hockey fans and writers are swarming to twitter about this topic. Unfortunately, a lot of Toronto fans are joking about this event. Ashton had only played in 3 games for the Maple Leafs this season with no points. The fans and some bloggers have made comments such as “Ashton was on PEDs? He should get his money back.” And, from an esteemed baseball writer with over 26,000 twitter followers, “Carter Ashton also tested positive for cooties after using his friend’s inhaler.” While there is a time and place for everything, making these joke on the day of the questionable suspension is in bad taste.
The lesson to be learned by Ashton and other NHL players is to be careful about the medication they take. Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals was almost denied his Olympic silver medal due to a similar event with allergy medicine while in Sochi. The lesson learned here by the media and fans alike is to treat something as unlucky as this with more respect than jokes directed at the player’s performance.