For the second time this season, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect has been suspended after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance.
Brad Ross, a winger with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, was suspended today for 20 games for violating the American Hockey League/Professional Hockey Players Association Performance Enhancing Substances Program.
He has chosen not to appeal the sentence.
In a statement, Leafs GM Dave Nonis expressed disappointment with Ross, the team's top pick in the 2010 draft.
“Our organization is diligent in its work to only provide our athletes supplements approved by the Banned Substance Control Group, and we’ve stressed the importance of staying within these parameters to maintain the integrity of what goes into their bodies,” he said.
There's no word on what might have triggered the positive test, but in November Ross' teammate Carter Ashton tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance that is popular with bodybuilders and other athletes looking to drop weight and get cut prior to competition. Ashton, who also was suspended for 20 games, claimed he mistakenly ingested the substance by using the asthma inhaler of an acquaintance at the gym.
Ross also played the ignorance card in a statement posted today on the PHPA website.
“I truly want to apologize to the entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization, my teammates, friends, family, and fans for violating the terms of the AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program,” he said. “I should have been fully mindful of anything entering my body and I understand the consequences for what has occurred. However, I did not at any time intentionally attempt to enhance my performance.
“All I can do now is learn from this and help educate other players to avoid making the same mistake I made. I look forward to putting this behind me and getting back to playing the game I love.”
Ross is eligible to return to action March 8. He's in the final year of his current contract and will be a restricted free agent after this season.
Given this black mark, and his inability to secure a regular role this season with the Marlies, it's unlikely the Leafs will re-sign the 22-year-old.
It's also unlikely that he'll be the last minor leaguer who is ensnared by the league's compliance testing.