Buffalo forward Zenon Konopka has been suspended 20 games for violating terms of the NHL- NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, the league announced on Thursday.
Konopka, 33, addressed the situation via Twitter:
— Zenon Konopka (@ZenonKonopka) May 15, 2014
And via this statement, issued by the NHLPA:
“I deeply regret that I have tested positive for a prohibited substance in violation of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. I accept full responsibility for this error. As a professional athlete I am responsible for what I put in my body, and I am to blame for this mistake.
I want to make it clear that this violation occurred because I ingested a product that can be purchased over-the-counter and which, unknown to me, contained a substance that violated the program. Unfortunately, I did not take the necessary care to ensure that the product did not contain a prohibited substance. I want to stress, however, that I did not take this substance for the purpose of enhancing my athletic performance.
I apologize to my teammates and to the Buffalo Sabres organization, as well as to my friends and family. I have learned a great deal from this experience, something I hope to be able to share with younger players. I will accept this suspension and continue to work hard to prepare for the 2014-15 season.”
Claimed off waivers from Minnesota in early January, Konopka appeared in 23 games for the Sabres this season, registering one assist while racking up 33 PIM. The noted tough guy has bounced around the NHL since debuting with Anaheim in 2005-06, spending time with the Blue Jackets, Lightning, Islanders and Senators prior to signing with Minnesota in 2012.
It’s worth noting that Konopka’s two-year deal has expired, meaning he’s currently a free agent. One figures it’ll be difficult for him to find work given he’ll miss one-quarter of the upcoming campaign.
This is not Konopka’s first run-in with the NHL, either. He was fined $2,500 for verbal abuse during Ottawa’s opening-round series against the Rangers during the ’12 playoffs, when he made comments towards Brian Boyle while Boyle was conducting a television interview.
Konopka is the first player to be suspended under the Performance Enhancing Substances Program since defenseman Sean Hill was given a 20-game ban in 2007 while playing for the New York Islanders.