LONDON — Swedish hockey star Nicklas Backstrom will receive an Olympic silver medal even though he was suspended from the final in Sochi after a positive drug test.
The International Olympic Committee ruled Friday that Backstrom had not intended to enhance his performance, laying the blame for his positive test for pseudoephedrine on the Swedish team doctor.
The Washington Capitals center was suspended and pulled from the team just hours before the Feb. 23 gold-medal game, which Sweden lost 3-0 to Canada.
The Swedes were outraged by the timing of the decision and said it affected the team’s performance.
The IOC defended the suspension, saying it was “fully justified” because of the positive test and noting that Backstrom conceded also taking the allergy medication on the day of the final. But the IOC ruled that the player should not be kicked out of the Sochi Games altogether, citing “mitigating circumstances.”
“There was no indication of any intent of the athlete to improve his performance by taking a prohibited substance,” the IOC’s three-person disciplinary commission said. “As a consequence, the athlete is entitled to receive the silver medal and diploma awarded in respect of the men’s ice hockey event.”
Backstrom tested positive for excess levels of pseudoephedrine after Sweden’s win over Slovenia in the quarterfinals on Feb. 19. He said the stimulant was contained in “Zytec-D,” a medication he had been taking for allergies.
The IOC said the positive result in the “A” sample was confirmed on the morning of Feb. 23. A hearing with Backstrom and Swedish team officials was quickly assembled. Among those attending was Bjorn Waldeback, the Swedish hockey team doctor and chief medical officer of the Swedish Olympic Committee.
The IOC said Backstrom had “nothing to hide” and explained he had been taking the allergy medication regularly for seven years on the advice of a doctor and had never produced a positive test. He said he had taken the medication earlier that day.
The IOC said Backstrom told the panel he knew the medication contained pseudoephedrine but relied on Waldeback’s advice that the dosage would not trigger a positive test. Waldeback said he was “at fault” for that advice.
Backstrom’s backup “B” sample was tested later on Feb. 23 and also came back positive.
The IOC ruled that Backstrom committed an anti-doping violation by having the banned substance in his system. But the panel said he had been “open and cooperative,” had disclosed the medication on his doping control form and had relied on Waldeback’s advice.
The IOC ruled that Waldeback “made a serious error” by telling Backstrom his use of the medication would not result in a positive test. If the doctor applies for Olympic accreditation in the future, the IOC should “seriously consider” his role in the case, the panel said.
The IOC said the decision “should in no way” be seen as taking away from the responsibility of athletes to be vigilant and ensure that no prohibited substances enter their body.
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