Capitals star Kuznetsov banned from Russia team for 4 years

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Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine at the world championship and has been banned from the Russian national team for four years.

Kuznetsov failed a doping test after a sample was taken May 26 — the day Russia won the bronze medal game against the Czech Republic in Slovakia, the International Ice Hockey Federation said Friday.

The previous day, Russia had lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Finland.

The ban does not stop Kuznetsov playing in the NHL, which classifies cocaine as a drug of abuse rather than a performance-enhancing doping product.

The NHL said Kuznetsov agreed to meet with commissioner Gary Bettman before training camp, and will undergo regular testing.

“Here, we understand that Mr. Kuznetsov has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL and (players’ union) collective bargaining agreement,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

Kuznetsov faced allegations of drug use at the world championships after a video posted on social media showed him talking to someone while lines of white powder and American dollar bills could be seen on the table. However, it was unclear when the clip was filmed.

Kuznetsov, who did not touch the powder in the soon-deleted video, said it was from 2018 in Las Vegas after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup with the Russian player a standout performer. He said it was a friend’s hotel room and he soon left after seeing drugs there.

“I never took drugs, give me a drug test and I’ll pass it,” he told Russian media outlet Sport Express in May.

The NHL closed its review of the incident within days, saying it found no reason to question the player’s explanation.

His ban expires on June 12, 2023, the Zurich-based IIHF said. The two-time world champion could pursue an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The 27-year-old Kuznetsov is currently excluded from the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the next three world championships.

Though the NHL did not release players for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, the next Winter Games in China’s capital city is a more attractive marketing prospect to justify shutting down league play for most of February.

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