Evgeny Kuznetsov has been suspended four years by the International Ice Hockey Federation for testing positive for cocaine.
The Washington Capitals forward has voluntarily entered the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH), run by the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. The 27-year-old has not been suspended by the NHL but must meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss the situation before the Capitals open training camp Sept. 13.
Kuznetsov was tested May 26 at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, where he was playing for Russia.
He was provisionally suspended June 13 for violating World Anti-Doping Code Article 2.1 (Presence of Prohibited Substance). His suspension, which covers all IIHF competitions, ends June 12, 2023.
“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,” Kuznetsov said in a statement issued by the Capitals on Friday. “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.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly issued the following statement:
“We have been fully briefed by the IIHF with respect to the positive test result and related international sanction that has been imposed on Washington Capitals’ Player Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“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 counseling program provided for in the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program.
“Mr. Kuznetsov has also agreed to an in-person meeting with Commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss his situation and review his conduct prior to the start of Training Camp preceding the 2019-20 season. We intend to reserve further comment on any additional actions that may or may not be taken with respect to today’s announcement (disciplinary or otherwise) pending the completion of the Commissioner’s meeting with Mr. Kuznetsov.”
The Capitals issued the following 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.”
Kuznetsov had 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists) in 70 games for the Capitals last season and six points (one goal, five assists) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games. He helped Washington win the Cup for the first time in its history in 2017-18, when he led the NHL with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in the playoffs after he had an NHL career-high 83 points (27 goals, 56 assists) in 79 regular-season games.
Kuznetsov, selected by the Capitals in the first round (No. 26) of the 2010 NHL Draft, has 337 points (101 goals, 236 assists) in 416 regular-season games and 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 76 postseason games for Washington.