Blue Jackets defenseman Berard tests positive for banned substance

Updated: January 20, 2006, 4:50 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Blue Jackets defenseman Bryan Berard apologized to his team and the Columbus fans Friday, saying he's "embarrassed" he's been suspended from international competition for two years after testing positive for a banned steroid.

"In life you learn from your mistakes and accepting it and just going forward," he said after practice.

The test the 28-year-old Berard failed wasn't part of the NHL's new testing program that began Sunday, so he will not be subject to league discipline.

A sample taken from Berard on Nov. 12 tested positive for 19-norandrosterone, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said. The steroid helps athletes add strength and muscle and lose weight. The sample was collected after his name was submitted by USA Hockey, the national governing body for the sport, as a potential Olympic participant.

"No question, I'm embarrassed about it," Berard said. "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."

Berard wasn't chosen last month by USA Hockey for the team that will compete in the Turin Games in February. He played on the 1998 U.S. Olympic team in Nagano, Japan.

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

Berard said the steroid was a supplement that he took to get ready for the NHL season during last year's lockout. He said he took another test "probably two weeks ago" that showed he was clean of any banned substances.

"I wanted to make sure that everything was fine from now on," he said.

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

Berard 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."

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."

Berard was asked if steroids were a part of the NHL.

"All I can speak to is what I did," he said. "It's a mistake. I don't know any other players that are using it or anything."

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.

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.

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 right 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.

Berard is third on the Blue Jackets with 27 points, scoring nine goals with 18 assists in 40 games.


Associated Press Writer Mark Williams contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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