The Washington Capitals will be without Evgeny Kuznetsov to begin the 2019-20 campaign as the NHL announced Saturday that it has levied a three-game ban against the star winger for “inappropriate conduct.”
The suspension stems from Kuznetsov testing positive for cocaine at the 2019 World Championship. As a result of the positive test, which the International Ice Hockey Federation noted was a violation of World Anti-Doping Code Article 2.1 (Presence of a Prohibited Substance), Kuznetsov was suspended four years by the IIHF, a punishment that will cost him the opportunity to play at upcoming international competitions and, should the NHL allow its player to participate, the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Per the NHL’s release, the decision to suspend Kuznetsov came following “an in-person meeting in New York on Monday, Sept. 9 with Kuznetsov and NHLPA representatives.” Previously stating through the Capitals that he would accept the IIHF’s suspension and not appeal the decision, he has similarly informed the NHL that he will not appeal the league’s three-game suspension. He will miss Washington’s season-opening contests against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 2 and New York Islanders on Oct. 4, as well as the Oct. 5 home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.
What should be noted about Kuznetsov’s suspension is that he has not been punished under the league’s NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. When news first came of Kuznetsov’s IIHF suspension, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly noted in a league release that cocaine “is not considered a performance enhancing drug and is therefore not a Prohibited Substance.” Daly added that it is instead considered “a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases.”
At the time the IIHF suspension was announced, Daly stated that Kuznetsov “has voluntarily sought help through the education and counselling 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.”
Kuznetsov has scored 21 goals and 72 points in 76 games last season and his 155 points put him second in team scoring across the past two campaigns behind only Alex Ovechkin. He will be eligible to return to the Capitals’ lineup Oct. 8 when Washington hosts the Dallas Stars.
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