Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is entering a drug counseling program after the International Ice Hockey Federation suspended him four years for testing positive for cocaine use during May’s world championships.
Kuznetsov, 27, is banned from playing in any international tournaments until June 23, 2023. That would include the 2022 Olympics should the NHL chose to allow its players to attend.
In a statement released by Capitals, Kuznetsov said he accepts the penalty.
“Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in,” Kuznetsov said. “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.”
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Kuznetsov faces no discipline from the NHL.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly issued a statement saying the league has been informed that Kuznetsov has “voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement.
“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,” Daly said. “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.”
As a result, according to Daly, Kuznetsov 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,” Daly added. “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.”
Kuznetsov had two goals and four assists in 10 games to help Russia win the bronze medal at the world championships. He had 21 goals and 72 points with the Capitals in the regular season.
In a separate incident that came to light in May, a photo appeared on Twitter showing Kuznetsov in a room that had a table with two lines of white powder on it. The video was taken down. Kuznetsov told Russian media that he entered the room in Las Vegas in 2018, and when he saw what was going on he left. He said he didn’t take drugs.
Regarding the IIHF suspension, the Washington Capitals issued a 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.”
Noting that Kuznetsov is seeking treatment, the Capitals added Friday: “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.”