Mysterious suspension to Hockey Canada official Scott Salmond leaves lots of unanswered questions

It came to light only recently that Hockey Canada VP of hockey operations, Scott Salmond was suspended for preventing a doping control officer from collecting a urine sample. Two years later, the complete story is still not clear.
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Kenneth Armstrong/CHL Images

Kenneth Armstrong/CHL Images

Depending on the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, Scott Salmond may not have an actual desk to which to return when he goes back to work at Hockey Canada. But when he does report for duty June 1, he’ll have an MBA in his back pocket, an improved ability to speak French and a new job title that he received almost two years ago.

Sound confusing? Well, that’s because it is. It came to light only recently that Salmond, who was vice-president of hockey operations and men’s national teams at Hockey Canada, was suspended by the International Ice Hockey Federation for preventing a doping control officer from collecting a urine sample from a Team Canada player at the Channel One Cup in Moscow in December, 2017.

How it took more than two years for the world to learn that one of the highest-ranking officials at Hockey Canada was suspended – particularly given that Salmond was actually promoted to the role of senior vice-president, national teams during the suspension – is an all-time head-scratcher. There is a veil of secrecy surrounding the Salmond suspension, one that will not be lifted until the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) releases its full decision on the case and who knows when that will happen? Salmond, meanwhile, has had his reputation besmirched outside Hockey Canada and has had to find other things to do for the past two years. He apparently used that time wisely, going back to university to complete his MBA and learning to speak French.

Here’s what we know, and it’s not much:

  • Salmond was suspended after preventing a control officer contracted by the IIHF from getting a urine sample from a Canadian player the night of Dec. 11, 2017, one night before the start of the Channel One Cup tournament in Moscow. The six-team tournament served as a tune-up for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
  • The player in question was not sanctioned for failing to provide a sample, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) informed the International Ice Hockey Federation of Salmond’s violation and he was suspended for one year.
  • Salmond appealed to CAS to have the suspension rescinded, while WADA also appealed to CAS to have the suspension increased to two years. CAS sided with WADA and the two-year suspension was imposed.
  • Hockey Canada vehemently disagrees with the suspension, but has honored it and Salmond has been prevented from doing any work with Hockey Canada since May, 2018. But when his suspension ends June 1, Hockey Canada will welcome him back.

And that’s about it. The lack of transparency from Hockey Canada, the IIHF, WADA and the CAS has been nothing short of astounding. The CAS upheld the original ruling, so it’s clear that body believes Salmond violated the rules, but on what grounds, exactly? And why did it take the CAS almost 11 months to render a ruling? The original appeal was heard in late-April of 2019, but CAS did not hand down a decision until early March of 2020.

One thing we do know is that Hockey Canada has steadfastly stood by Salmond throughout the entire process. That’s because, according to sources, it believes Salmond acted appropriately and in the best interests of the player who was involved. According to multiple sources, this is how Hockey Canada claims things went down:

  • On the night in question, testers contracted out by the IIHF showed up at Team Canada’s hotel and did bona fide tests on five players, following all protocols. They left the hotel upon completing the tests.
  • Forty-five minutes later, another person who claimed to be a tester showed up intent on testing one player. The person initially refused to produce his/her credentials, meaning protocol was not followed. Five days prior to this, the International Olympic Committee announced that the Russian Olympic Committee had been suspended for the 2018 Winter Olympics as the result of a state-sponsored doping program. When the tester, who was wearing no official uniform and did not produce credentials, tried to execute a test, Salmond stepped in and prevented it from happening.

Meanwhile, there was never any announcement by anyone for what appeared to be a serious breach by a high-ranking Canadian hockey official. Hockey Canada has expressed that it disagrees with the suspension, but nothing from any of the IIHF, WADA or the CAS. When contacted by TheHockeyNews.com, WADA referred us to the IIHF, who subsequently said it would not comment until CAS produces its report. Outgoing IIHF president Rene Fasel told Canadian Press that no announcement was made by his organization because of the “unique nature” of the case.

Perhaps then we’ll get concrete answers. Meanwhile, Salmond has spent the past two years in limbo and under a cloud of suspicion for an act that Hockey Canada claims was noble and only in the interests of protecting the athlete. Nobody knows the name of the player or whether he actually ended up ever being tested or participated in the Games.

Salmond, by all accounts, is a man of integrity and has spent almost two decades forging a respectful career in international hockey circles. Perhaps he did something egregiously wrong, perhaps not. WADA, the IIHF and CAS have clearly concluded that he’s a cheater, but Hockey Canada is hailing him as a hero and not only took him back, but promoted him. Something doesn’t add up and until we get some answers, Salmond is going to have to go on wearing sport’s equivalent of a scarlet letter.

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