In the age of NIL and PEDs, college athletes must be cautious about every ingredient in any protein shake or supplement is reckless.
The case of Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay, who won the Hobey Baker Award winner earlier this month, the Division I men’s hockey equivalent to the Heisman Trophy, is murky. A beyond-microscopically small amount of the muscle-growth enhancer Ostarine was found in a urine sample from January, leading to a six-month ban from competition for an anti-doping rule violation, according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
How small are we talking? Multiple trillionths of a gram. There are 4.8 grams in a teaspoon. Now multiply each of those grains of salt by .0000000000001. That’s about the amount of Ostarine in McKay’s system, which he believes came from a supplement he had been taking, the anti-inflammatory Quercetin, where the enhancement wasn’t listed on the Supplement Facts label, per USADA. Ostarine is a banned substance by several national sports organizations, including the International Ice Hockey Federation. Quercetin has been used by some to recover from a coronavirus diagnosis. McKay’s positive test came in the middle of the Omicron variant’s surge.
McKay, who is named after former Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Ken Dryden, began his ban on April 14, the same day he accepted the punishment and less than two weeks after winning the Hobey Baker. The 25-year-old had previously declared his intentions to turn pro after Minnesota State’s season ended. McKay played his final collegiate game five days before the ban was implemented, a 5-1 loss in the national championship game to Denver. The 5-foot-11 goaltender was not selected in the NHL Draft and is a free agent. McKay would next be eligible to play in a game in mid-October.
“During USADA’s investigation into the circumstances of the case, USADA received results from a (World Anti-Doping Agency)-accredited laboratory that a supplement product McKay was using prior to sample collection, which did not list Ostarine on the Supplement Facts label, was contaminated with that substance at an amount consistent with the circumstances of ingestion and his positive test,” said USADA in its ruling.
McKay proving the contamination’s source allowed an arbitrator to lift his original suspension in February after three days until USADA completed its investigation. He went on to set NCAA records for most wins in a season for a goaltender (37) and most shutouts in a season (34). McKay told ESPN he believed Ostarine provided no performance benefits.McKay was an alternate for the United States men’s hockey team competing at the Beijing Olympics and never played for his country. McKay doesn’t have to relinquish the Hobey Baker due to the ban.
The investigation conveniently wrapping up mere days after the end of his college career shows a few things. His ban from competitions, which there aren’t many of, provides an understanding that McKay’s use of the illegal substance was an accident. It’s essentially a slap on the wrist of holding McKay accountable and everyone moves on. Due to McKay’s height, his chances of a prolonged NHL career are slim, with or without this suspension.
McKay accepting responsibility is in good faith and gives him a chance to continue his hockey career past Minnesota State. Fighting the charge would’ve been his legacy, more than being named the NCAA’s top hockey player this year.