Ok Laraque!

Recently Georges Laraque claimed that enforcers and top-tier NHL athletes are on performance-enhancing drugs like steroids, and claims that you can "prove" this by looking at changes in a player's performance during Olympic years, when NHL players are subject to far more extensive drug tests. Theoretically, Laraque argues, player performance will take a dip in Olympic seasons as they get off the drugs, and return to normal the following season.

Ok Laraque, that's easy enough to do. There are 102 NHL players who played at least 20 games before, during and after the 2010 Olympics. To measure their performance I used an all-purpose statistic that summarizes all of a player's offensive and defensive contributions in one number: GVT. To account for any changes in ice-time, I calculated each player's GVT per 60 minutes of ice-time for all three seasons (Anyone who wants the raw data can drop me an email). If Laraque is right there should be an over-all dip in the Olympic season.

As a group, here's how the 102 players did, in GVT per 60 minutes:

2008-09: 0.36

2009-10: 0.41 Olympic Year

2010-11: 0.40

What gives Laraque? As a group they were actually best when they were being tested for performance-enhancing drugs! They were certainly better than the year previous, and they were no better the next season when they presumably got back on the juice.

Of the 102 star athletes, 59 were better in their Olympic year than the season previous, and 55 were better in their Olympic year than the following season. 36 of them actually had their best year in the Olympic season. There was no Olympic year dip.

Maybe it's only a handful of players taking steroids, because only a handful of players were appreciably worse in the Olympic year than both the season previous and the season following. Only 21 of the 102 players had their worst season in the Olympic year. Among them who are the likeliest juicers using the Laraque Approach? Ryan Callahan and Pavel Datsyuk were both at least 0.2 GVT per game worse in their Olympic year, followed by David Krejci, Jan Hejda, Brian Rafalski, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, David Backes, Rick Nash and Ryan Malone.

I'm not arguing against Georges Laraque's over-all claim about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the NHL, I'm simply arguing against his claim that it can be proven as simply as he suggests. Either he's wrong about his claim, or he's wrong about having evidence.

Call me next time you want to say something liket his, Georges. I'll crunch the numbers and either give you the evidence you need, or let you know when to keep quiet.

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