Hockey Player Struck with 20 Game Suspension – Too Harsh, or Not Harsh Enough?

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated November 14, 2014

Carter Ashton, forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, was suspended for 20 games for using a substance that is prohibited by the NHL.

What we as the public expect to hear is that Ashton was taking some form of performance enhancing drug, or even an illicit street drug like cocaine or heroin. However, he tested positive for Clenbuterol, a chemical found in an inhaler used to treat asthma attacks.

Upon being suspended, Ashton released a statement saying, “I suffered an asthmatic spasm in late August while in a training session… One of the other athletes I was training with gave me an inhaler in order to help open my airway, which provided me with immediate relief from my asthma attack,” he said. “I kept this inhaler and used it a second time early in the training camp upon experiencing another asthma attack. I now recognize that I ingested Clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, through the inhaler.”

Ashton’s suspension has garnered some controversy, as many are saying that the 20-day suspension is unnecessary, as his health condition required such treatment. Others, however, are happy to see that at least one major sporting league is following through on their policies and providing punishment for anyone who violates their terms – regardless of how or why.

In other sports, specifically baseball and football, athletes and their bosses have been harshly criticized for how drug abuse is treated. For example, numerous baseball players have slipped through the cracks for using substances ranging from steroids to cocaine, and those who have been punished have received the minimal consequence (such as a small fine or a couple game suspension, or an asterisk next to their name in the Hall of Fame). Just recently, however, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees was suspended for the entire 2014 season for his steroid abuse, making him an “example” for the rest of the league.

Unfortunately, similar practices occur in the NFL as in the MLB, as punishments for using drugs and/or alcohol are often few and far between. For example, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin was suspended for only four games in 2013 when he was caught using Adderall, a stimulant medication that is not only highly addictive, but banned from the NFL.

So, while Ashton’s suspension might seem a little harsh to some, others are welcoming the consequences. As drug abuse continues to rise throughout the country, it is important that even those of privilege are held to the same standards as everyone else, and are encouraged to stay clean while on the job.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.