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Dirty Bird: IIHF Suspends Kuznetsov for Cocaine (Updated)

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Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has received a four-year ban by the IIHF for use of a banned substance during the 2019 World Championships. According to the IIHF press release the substance was cocaine and was found in samples which were collected during the 2019 World Championships in May.

Cocaine is violation of World Anti-Doping Code Article 2.1. Kuznetsov did not request additional tests of his B-sample. His suspension will conclude in June 2023. Earlier this summer, a video surfaced of Kuznetsov sitting near two lines of white powder in a hotel room. The NHL and Washington Capitals accepted Kuznetsov’s explanation and called the matter, “formally closed.”

“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,” Kuznetsov said via a statement in May.

Kuznetsov, 27, scored perhaps the biggest goal in Washington history when his tally eliminated their arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins in a Game 6 overtime of the 2018 Round Two series. The goal ended the Penguins two-year Stanley Cup championship reign and propelled the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup win. Kuznetsov also earned praise and derision for his “Dirty Bird’ goal celebration during the championship run.

It is unclear if Kuznetsov will face a suspension in the NHL. He will likely be contacted by the NHL Substance Abuse program, though such matters are typically private. Last season, the Russian winger scored  72 points (21g, 51a) in 76 games.

UPDATE: Statement from Bill Daly, Deputy NHL Commissioner

Per NHL Media Relations:

“We have been fully briefed by the IIHF with respect to the positive test result and related international sanction that has been imposed on WashingtonCapitals’ 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.”

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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