Leafs’ Ashton suspended 20 games, admits ingestion of banned substance

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From the league office:

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton has been suspended for 20 games, without pay, for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.

Based on his average annual salary, Ashton will forfeit $169,185.

The National Hockey League will have no further comment on this matter.

In a statement issued shortly after the suspension announcement, Ashton explained his circumstances. From the NHLPA:

“I suffered an asthmatic spasm in late August while in a training session getting prepared for the 2014-15 NHL season. One of the other athletes I was training with gave me an inhaler in order to help open my airway, which provided me with immediate relief from my asthma attack. I kept this inhaler and used it a second time early in the training camp upon experiencing another asthma episode. Unfortunately, I incorrectly assumed that there were no problems associated with the use of this inhaler and I used it without checking to see whether its contents were permissible under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

“I now recognize that I ingested Clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, through the inhaler. However, at no time was I seeking to gain an athletic advantage or to knowingly violate the terms of the program. I used the inhaler in response to exercise-induced asthma, a condition that my doctor with the Toronto Maple Leafs has since diagnosed and he has prescribed me with an inhaler.

“As a professional hockey player, I recognize that I am responsible for what I put into my body, and I will not appeal my suspension. While I am extremely disappointed that I have let my teammates, our fans and the Maple Leafs organization down, I will work very hard during my suspension to stay in game shape so that I can help out the team when I am able to return.”

The Maple Leafs have also issued a statement, from president Brendan Shanahan:

“The Toronto Maple Leafs support the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and today’s decision to suspend forward Carter Ashton. At this time, out of respect for Carter and the process involved, the Club will not comment any further.”

Ashton, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick (29th overall) at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, was acquired by Toronto during the 2011-12 season and has appeared in 50 games for the Leafs, three of them coming this year.

The 23-year-old has gone scoreless this season, averaging just over six minutes per game, and is eligible to return on Saturday, Dec. 20 when Toronto takes on Philadelphia.