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Friday, January 20, 2006
Updated: January 21, 11:43 AM ET
Berard still eligible to play in NHL

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Blue Jackets defenseman Bryan Berard accepted a two-year suspension from international competition for taking a banned steroid, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Friday.

Since the test Berard failed wasn't part of NHL testing, he won't be subject to league discipline.

Bryan Berard
Berard

A sample taken from Berard on Nov. 12 tested positive for 19-norandrosterone, a steroid that helps athletes add strength and muscle and lose weight. The sample was collected after his name was submitted by USA Hockey as a potential Olympic participant.

"No question, I'm embarrassed about it," Berard said after practice Friday. "There's nothing I can do about it now, other than accepting what I've done. We'll learn from it, it was a mistake and it won't happen again."

The suspension began Jan. 3, the day Berard accepted a provisional suspension, USADA said.

Berard said the steroid was a supplement that he took to get ready for the NHL season. He said he requested another test on Sunday that shows the substance is no longer in his body. Sources also told The Canadian Press that after Berard failed the November test, he voluntarily took two tests administered by the NHL and NHL Players' Union and passed both.

He would not answer questions on how long or how much of the substance he took.

His teammates were not permitted to discuss the suspension.

"He was quick to acknowledge that he made a really dumb mistake," said Travis Tygart, the USADA's general counsel. USADA is based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Berard has agreed to cooperate with USADA and participate in programs to inform athletes and the public about the dangers of taking steroids.

"I have spoken with Bryan and he expressed great remorse," said Ted Saskin, the players' association executive director, in a statement. "I remain confident that this is an isolated occurrence in our sport, and our new NHL/NHLPA testing program will demonstrate to our fans that the players' association and the league are focused on ensuring that our sport is free of performance enhancing substances."

Berard wasn't chosen last month by USA Hockey for the team that will compete in the Turin Games in February.

The NHL began testing for performance-enhancing drugs on Sunday for the first time after the league and the players' association came up with a plan in the new collective bargaining agreement that ended the season-long lockout.

"While today's announcement relating to Bryan Berard certainly is disappointing, it does nothing to change the fact that the use of steroids is not a pervasive problem facing the National Hockey League," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Mr. Berard is one of hundreds of players who, as a result of being identified as potential Olympic candidates, have been subject to random testing for the past several months.

"There have been dozens of tests administered to a wide cross-section of our players during this time period and Mr. Berard's is the only positive test of which we are aware."

Stiff penalties have been established for players who fail NHL-administered drug testing. A first-time offender would be suspended for 20 games, a second positive test would result in a 60-game ban, while a three-time offender would be kicked out of the league permanently.

Doug MacLean, Blue Jackets president and general manager, said the test results were a valuable lesson.

"People make mistakes. I make lots of them, we all make lots of them -- that's the way I'm approaching it and I'm going to support Bryan 100 percent," he said.

Should Berard fail an NHL test in the future he would be treated as a first-time offender.

"Mr. Berard's eligibility for play in the National Hockey League is not impacted by this positive drug test," Daly said. "We are confident that with the introduction of our new collectively-bargained performance enhancing substances Program, including the educational, testing and penalty elements that are part of that program, the use of banned substances by any NHL players will be eradicated in short order."

Berard signed a two-year contract with Columbus in August after playing nine seasons for Toronto, the New York Rangers, Boston, Chicago and the New York Islanders. He was the 1997 NHL rookie of the year with the Islanders and won the Masterton Trophy in 2004 for best exemplifying the qualities of hockey. He was severely injured in 2000 when he was hit in the eye with a stick. He missed the rest of that season and the following one and still has reduced vision in the eye.

In 2003-04, Berard had 13 goals and 34 assists with Chicago, giving him more points than any other Western Conference defenseman.