Kuznetsov gets four-year ban from IIHF for cocaine

Getty
16 Comments

Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov won’t be appearing in any international competitions for a long time.

On Friday morning, the International Ice Hockey Federation announced that the Russian center had been suspended for four years. According to the IIHF’s release, Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine during the 2019 World Hockey Championship in May.

His four-year ban began on June 13th, 2019 and it will come to an end on June 12th, 2023. He’ll be 31 years old when he’s finished serving this suspension and, should NHL players participate, will not be eligible for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

As you may remember, a video surfaced on social media in May showing Kuznetsov in a Las Vegas hotel room with some white powder on a table. At the time, Kuznetsov denied ever using drugs. The NHL and the Capitals accepted the forward’s denial at the time.

”I never took drugs, give me a drug test and I’ll pass it,” Kuznetsov told Sport Express at the time.

“While I have never taken illegal drugs in my life and career, I would like to publicly apologize to the Capitals, my teammates, our fans and everyone else, for putting myself in a bad situation,” he said in a statement after the video surfaced. “This was a hard lesson for me to learn.”

Russia ended up winning the bronze medal at the 2019 World Hockey Championship. Kuznetsov had two goals and six points in 10 games during the tournament, which was held in Slovakia.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released the following statement on Friday morning:

“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 release 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.”

“I have made the decision to accept this penalty,” said Kuznetsov in a statement. “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.”

According to the Washington Post, the Capitals were aware of the situation had been working with Kuznetsov “for a while now,” per a source.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.