- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2019

The International Ice Hockey Federation announced Friday that Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine earlier this year and will be suspended from IIHF competitions for four years.

Kuznetsov’s positive test came in May while playing for Russia in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, a news release said. His suspension from competitions such as the world championship will last until June 12, 2023.

The next step for Kuznetsov is to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before the Capitals begin training camp Sept. 13, according to a statement from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. The league will not make any decisions about discipline until that meeting.

Cocaine is not technically a banned substance in the NHL, but rather a “drug of abuse” that can trigger intervention on a case-by-case basis.

“Unlike the IIHF, cocaine is not considered a performance enhancing drug and is therefore not a Prohibited Substance under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program,” Daly wrote. “Instead, it is considered a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases.”

Daly also said that Kuznetsov has “voluntarily sought help” with the NHL’s education and counseling program for players.

In May, a video leaked online showing Kuznetsov in a hotel room with an unidentified white substance on a table next to him, believed to be cocaine. Kuznetsov admitted he put himself in a bad situation by visiting that hotel room but denied ever using any illegal drugs.

Kuznetsov met with the NHL and avoided a suspension at the time.

The Capitals released the following statement from Kuznetsov:

“Recently, the IIHF notified me that, due to a positive test for a banned substance, I would be suspended from international competition for four years. I have made the decision to accept this penalty. Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in. Not being able to put that sweater on for four years is very hard to take. I have disappointed so many people that are important to me, including my family, teammates and friends.

“From the first day I took the ice in D.C., the Washington Capitals organization and our fans have been nothing but great to me and my family. I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward.”

In addition, the Capitals’ made their own statement:

“We are aware of the positive test result and related international sanction that has been imposed on Evgeny Kuznetsov. We are disappointed with this development and take this occurrence seriously. We understand that Evgeny has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program. In addition, we are committed to ensuring he has the necessary support required to work through this situation. We will remain in contact with the NHL as they determine the next steps. Because of the sensitive nature surrounding this matter, there will be no further comment from us at this time.”

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