As the result of a positive test for cocaine during the 2019 World Championship, Washington Capitals winger and Russian national team standout Evgeny Kuznetsov has been handed a four-year suspension by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The IIHF announced the ban Friday morning, citing a violation of “World Anti-Doping Code Article 2.1 (Presence of a Prohibited Substance).” Continuing, the IIHF’s statement reads that Kuznetsov’s case “concerns a test indicating a prohibited substance, cocaine, according to section S6.a (non-specified substance) of the World Anti-Doping Code 2019 Prohibited List.” The positive stems from a test taken on May 26, 2019, the day after Russia suffered a 1-0 loss to Finland and the same day they defeated Russia 3-2 to capture bronze at the tournament.
In a statement released by the Capitals, Kuznetsov said he will accept the four-year suspension.
“Not being able to put that sweater on for four years is very hard to take,” Kuznetsov said. “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.”
Kuznetsov’s suspension comes not long after video surfaced of the 27-year-old sitting at a table that contained two lines of a white substance. The video was posted by a since-deleted Twitter account on May 27. In response to the video, Kuznetsov spoke with Russia's sport-express.ru and denied that he had anything to do with what was happening in the room on the night in question.
“I never used drugs and have no intention to get into it,” Kuznetsov told the outlet.
Kuznetsov did, however, confirm it was him in the video, but said he was simply visiting friends and left “as quickly as possible” after he saw what was happening in the room. He added that the brief clip was from the summer of 2018 following the Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory and had nothing to do with the World Championship.
The NHL investigated the situation following the release of the video and stated that following an interview with Kuznetsov, as well as additional fact-finding steps, his recounting of the events of the evening lined up with other information the league had gathered. “We have found no basis to question his representations with respect to what did – and what did not – occur,” read deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s statement. “We consider the matter formally closed.”
Due to the timing of Kuznetsov’s suspension – not to mention the length – it will hinder any plans he may have had to participate in the 2022 Olympics. A no-brainer to make the Russian squad if the NHL were to allow its player to suit up in Beijing, the four-year ban, which came into effect on June 13, 2019, won’t conclude until June 12, 2023. He will also be ineligible for the next four World Championships.
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