It was announced earlier today that Evgeny Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine and the IIHF has suspended him for 4 years from international competitions. In a statement, the IIHF said:
“The case concerns a test indicating a prohibited substance, cocaine, according to section S6.a (non-specified substance) of the World Anti-Doping Code 2019 Prohibited List. The prohibited substance was found in a doping control which occurred on 26 May 2019 at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The player didn’t require the analysis of his B-sample and was provisionally suspended on 13th June 2019.” (x)
Let’s rewind real quick.
A video surfaced in May 27th of Kuznetsov sitting next to a table with white, powder-like lines. At the time, Kuznetsov said that he had “never used drugs”. The whole ordeal was swept under the rug and left there for a while. Kuznetsov wasn’t actively doing lines of coke in the video so there was no real reason to talk about it much further. That is until today.
The IIHF technically suspended Kuznetsov in June but the information is just being released now. The sentencing itself is harsh considering Slava Voynov who was arrested and charged with a “misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse” was allowed to play in the Olympics with the Olympic Athletes from Russia. Although there are rules against it, suspending a player for four years, off the bat, is a rough place to start.
The NHL is taking a more productive route.
Under NHL rules, cocaine is not seen as a performance enhancing drug by the NHL and NHLPA. Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner, said in a statement:
“[Cocaine] is considered a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases. Mr. Kuznetsov has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling 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.” (x)
Kuznetsov will be meeting with Gary Bettman, NHL’s Commissioner, before training camp starts up for the Capitals. The NHL will be taking no action, be it discipline or anything else, until Kuznetsov sits down with Bettman. The NHL is handling this situation better because they are taking the time to actually check in with Kuznetsov; they aren’t baring a young player for making a mistake, they’re trying to help him.
There are players who don’t deserve a second chance in the league [See: Slava Voynov once more] but for Kuznetsov, he deserves one. He has since come clean about what happened and wants to make amends. The cocaine isn’t seen as a enhanced performance drug so there is no reason to drag him through the mud for months for it. Here is the statement from both the Capitals and Kuznetsov.
I still stand by what I said when the video surfaced of Kuznetsov next to the “white, powdery substance”. The NHL has bigger fish to fry then someone doing coke. There are players in this league who deserve to be thrown out of the NHL, yet they’re still on the ice. Kuznetsov deserves a second chance and I hope the NHL gives him what he deserves.
Featured Image: AP Photo