The NHL is following suit with the World Anti-Doping Agency by adding meldonium, which was linked to the Russian under-18 team, to its list of banned substances.
Meldonium use has become a hot-button issue over the past several months, and the NHL is taking steps to ensure its players aren’t taking the substance. Russian news outlet TASS reported Tuesday that meldonium will be added to the list of substances banned by the NHL ahead of the coming season. The addition comes after the World Anti-Doping Agency added meldonium, also known as mildronate, to its list of banned substances in January 2016. “Meldonium will be a Prohibited Substance in the NHL beginning with the start of the 2016-17 season,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed in a statement to TASS.
Hockey has been relatively untouched when it comes to doping infractions and scandals, but meldonium was at the center of a high-profile doping scandal earlier this year. In April, the entire Russian Under-18 national team was scrapped and replaced ahead of the U18 World Championships by the Under-17 squad. The move came as the result of a meldonium use. The Russian Ice Hockey Federation confirmed the players on the club had been taking the substance up until the fall of 2015, around the time WADA announced it would be adding meldonium to the banned substances list. However, the Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, said the decision to replace the team wasn’t made because the team couldn’t be sure that traces of the substance wouldn’t be found by drug testing.
“We are not avoiding responsibility,” Mutko said in April, via TASS. “We simply don’t know what will happen if an athlete goes to an international tournament. We are simply minimizing [the possible] risks. Whether we speak about an ice hockey team or any other athlete, one should realize a simple thing that it is incorrect to [bluntly] state that a drug’s presence had been revealed in the system of athletes from the youth or women’s teams.”
Doping suspensions haven’t been a common occurrence in the NHL. The first suspension for violation of the NHL/NHLPA’s Performance Enhancing Substances came in 2007 when Sean Hill was handed a 20-game ban for a violation of the policy. It took almost seven years for another case to pop up, but the league has had its share of cases over the past few seasons following Zenon Konopka’s positive test in May 2014.
The next season, 2014-15, former Toronto Maple Leafs prospects Carter Ashton and Brad Ross were suspended for violating the performance enhancing substance policy, and former Chicago Blackhawks’ AHLer Brad Mills was suspended earlier in the same campaign. Two players were suspended 20 games for violating the policy in 2015-16, as well, as both Jarred Tinordi and Shawn Horcoff tested positive. One of the first players booked for using performance enhancing substances was Bryan Berard, who was suspended from international play for two years following a positive test for a banned anabolic steroid. He was not suspended by the NHL because the positive test did not come under the league’s doping policy.
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