The NHL has suspended Washington Capitals’ forward Evgeny Kuznetsov for three games, following a positive cocaine test. The news was first reported by Washington Post reporter, Isabelle Khurshudyan before the NHL released their statement.
In August, Kuznetsov received a four-year suspension from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for failing a drug test when Team Russia won the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships.
The IIHF considers cocaine a “Prohibited Substance,” while the NHL does not at this point. After Kuznetsov tested positive, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement on the positive test and gave the NHL’s stance on the drug.
“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. 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.”
“Here, we understand that Mr. Kuznetsov has voluntarily sought help through the education and counselling program provided for in the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program.”
Kuznetsov will serve his suspension through the first three games of the regular season and dress for his first game at home against the Dallas Stars, Oct. 8.
Last season, Kuznetsov scored 21 goals and added 51 assists for 72 points – 11 points lower than the season before. He had a rocky campaign, and it looks like 2019-20 will start that way as well.
The Kuznetsov Story So Far
Both the IIHF and NHL began investigating Kuznetsov after a video surfaced with the player next to a table with two lines of what appears to be a white powder. Speaking about the video, the Russian player told media, “I never took drugs. Give me a drug test and I’ll pass it.”
However, after testing positive and being banned by the IIHF, Kuznetsov owned up to the result in a joint release between him and the Capitals.
“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 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.”
Not only will Kuznetsov miss the annual World Championships, but if the NHL goes to the 2022 Olympics he’ll be forced to watch as well.
General manager Brian McLellan also touched on this situation after the positive test came out, but prior to the suspension. (From: “Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov to be suspended to start NHL season for positive cocaine test” – The Washinton Post – Sept. 14/19).
“He’s aware that it’s a big mistake in his mind, and he’s remorseful. He knows he made a mistake, and he wants to move on from it. He wants to take responsibility for it but also wants to move on.”
With the whirlwind of headlines around Kuznetsov this summer, his teammates have been right by his side and look forward to playing with the Russian player soon.
“He realizes he makes mistake,” said captain Alex Ovechkin. “Sometimes the best thing is just support him and be at his side.”
While Kuznetsov does have the right to appeal the suspension, the NHL’s release stated that he will not be doing so.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.