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Bettman to testify on steroids on Wednesday to House subcommittee

WASHINGTON - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman plans to tell a U.S. House subcommittee on Wednesday that his sport is steroid-free.

Bettman will join his major league counterparts in testifying before the House subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

"We shouldn't all be painted with the same broad brush, Bettman said. "Every sport is different. What goes on in one sport does not go on in every sport. This hasn't been an issue for us for a variety of reasons as it has been for others."

Bettman said the NHL has had just one player suspended for steroid usage in the 2 1/2 years since play resumed after the 2004-05 work stoppage.

While Bettman said the league continually re-evaluates its penalties for steroid use, he's happy with the current sanctions. For a first violation, a player is suspended for 20 games, 60 games for a second violation and a permanent for a third violation.

"The penalties are very severe. A quarter of a season, three-quarters of a season, and that's it," Bettman said.

Bettman spoke before Tuesday night's Minnesota Wild-Washington Capitals game, and was impressed with the flurry of trading activity before the 3 p.m. deadline. The Wild acquired bad boy forward Chris Simon from the New York Islanders.

Simon's been suspended eight times in 15 seasons.

"When you are involved in the supplemental discipline program process, who you are and what your history has been is a relevant factor. I am a believer in progressive discipline," Bettman said. "You get to a point in some instances where enough is enough."

Bettman said the Wild's sale from Robert Naegele Jr. to Craig Leopold is nearly complete, and he hoped to have the transaction completed in six to 12 weeks.

The commissioner hadn't been to Washington since the Capitals signed left wing Alex Ovechkin to a US$124-million, 13-year contract.

"I think shorter contracts can give you more flexibility, but there may be situations where a franchise should commit," Bettman said. "(Washington owner) Ted Leonsis and his partners ensured that Alex Ovechkin spent his whole career here, and that fans should never have to worry about him leaving here."

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