Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton was suspended for 20 games for violating the NHL/NHL Players' Association performance enhancing substance program, the league announced on Thursday afternoon.
Ashton, a 2009 first-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, will lose $169,185 in pay during his suspension. His punishment will also include a referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health, where he will be evaluated and could have to undergo treatment.
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said the club supported the suspension and the league's Performance Enhancing Substance Program, but declined to comment further.
Ashton, who has yet to score a point this season, tied the positive test to an asthma medication he used briefly during training camp. He is the third player suspended since 2007 under the NHL/NHLPA policy.
In a statement, Ashton said:
"I now recognize that I ingested Clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, through the inhaler. However, at no time was I seeking to gain an athletic advantage or to knowingly violate the terms of the program. I used the inhaler in response to exercise-induced asthma, a condition that my doctor with the Toronto Maple Leafs has since diagnosed and he has prescribed me with an inhaler," the statement said.
"As a professional hockey player, I recognize that I am responsible for what I put into my body, and I will not appeal my suspension."
In three games this season, Ashton, 23, has recorded just three shots. In his three years in the league, all with Toronto, he has played 50 games, tallying three points and 48 shots on goal.
The Maple Leafs, 6-5-1 so far this year, are sixth in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. They face the Colorado Avalanche (3-6-5) in Colorado tonight at 9 pm EST.