Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals will get an unwanted extended summer break as the 27-year-old Russian star has officially been suspended for the first three games of the 2019/20 NHL season. This follows the four-year ban he recently received from the International Ice Hockey Federation for testing positive for cocaine during the 2019 World Championship earlier this year in Slovakia.
Kuznetsov was more or less caught red handed by a third party when a video surfaced on social media which appeared to show him using cocaine in a hotel room during the tournament. The NHL took notice of the video and met with the player when training camp started and shared the news of the suspension with him. However, he was given permission to attend training camp and play in preseason games.
When the video first surfaced Kuznetsov said through a media release that he didn’t take drugs and the footage was filmed in Las Vegas in 2018 after the Capitals had hoisted the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. He also volunteered to undergo another drug test at the time to back up his words. Well, Kuznetsov failed the first test which was administered to him back on May 26th at the World Championships. He was given an indefinite suspension after the test results came back and it was later announced in August as a four-year ban.
Since then he has voluntarily entered the NHL’s drug and alcohol program and met with NHL brass when he was given three games without pay. Kuznetsov, who’s contract is $7.8 million against the salary cap, will miss the Capitals’ first three contests and will be eligible to return to the lineup on October 8 when Washington takes on the Dallas Stars. He was inconsistent last season but still managed to score 21 goals and 72 points in 76 games. However, it was an off season considering he notched 12 goals and 32 points in 24 playoff games the year before.
Kuznetsov can’t play in any IIHF events until the summer of 2023 which means he’ll have to sit out the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. It may not really matter as far as the Olympics are concerned though since the NHL hasn’t decided yet if its players will be participating. The reason he was handed a four-year ban by the IIHF is because cocaine is deemed to be a performance-enhancing drug by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). However, the NHL doesn’t consider it to be performance-enhancing.
The current drug policy in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the player’s association enables the league to drug test every team member during training camp as well as once during the regular season. Also, a player can be tested randomly at any time in the regular season and the playoffs while up to 60 players may be given a drug test in the off-season. These tests are typically for performance-enhancing substances but recreational drugs can also be tested. Any player who has a high level of any recreational drug in their body is asked to explain the reason to a doctor.
The player may then be sent to the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Program. In general, the NHL focuses on player treatment when failing a recreational-drug test, but Kuznetsov’s suspension is for what the league called inappropriate behaviour. The NHL has suspended players in the past when they admitted to using drugs and introduced the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program in 1996. Kuznetsov is the first player suspended for drug use since then.