ZURICH - Washington Capitals centre Evgeny Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine at the world championship and has been banned from the Russian national team for four years.
The International Ice Hockey Federation says Kuznetsov failed a doping test taken May 26 - the day Russia won the bronze medal game against the Czech Republic in Slovakia. The previous day, Russia lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Finland.
The IIHF says the ban expires on June 12, 2023. That excludes Kuznetsov from the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The ban does not affect Kuznetsov playing for the Capitals.
"Recently, the IIHF notified me that, due to a positive test for a banned substance, I would be suspended from international competition for four years," said Kuznetsov in a statement issued by the Capitals on Friday. "I have made the decision to accept this penalty. Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in.
"Not being able to put that sweater on for four years is very hard to take. I have disappointed so many people that are important to me, including my family, teammates and friends. From the first day I took the ice in D.C., the Washington Capitals organization and our fans have been nothing but great to me and my family. I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward."
"We are aware of the positive test result and related international sanction that has been imposed on Evgeny Kuznetsov," added the Capitals in a team statement on Friday morning. "We are disappointed with this development and take this occurrence seriously. We understand that Evgeny has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program.
"In addition, we are committed to ensuring he has the necessary support required to work through this situation. We will remain in contact with the NHL as they determine the next steps. Because of the sensitive nature surrounding this matter, there will be no further comment from us at this time."
In May, the Capitals said they had confirmed Kuznetsov was shown in a now-deleted video on social media that appeared to show him in a hotel room with lines of white powder on a table in front of him. The video posted on Twitter carried a message saying it was why Russia lost in the world hockey championship semifinals. It showed Kuznetsov talking to someone and lines of white powder and American dollar bills can be seen on the table. Kuznetsov does not touch anything on the table in the 22-second video.
In a statement sent to The Associated Press by spokesman Sergey Kocharov, the team said it was in the process of gathering facts and would have no further comment at that time. In a statement to Russian news outlet Sport Express in May, Kuznetsov said the video is from 2018 in Las Vegas after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. In that statement, Kuznetsov said he went to a friend's hotel room, saw drugs and an "unknown women," called a friend and left.
"I never took drugs, give me a drug test and I'll pass it," Kuznetsov told Sport Express.
Kuznetsov, 27, was Washington's leading scorer in the playoffs when the team won the Stanley Cup a year ago. Last season, he had 72 points in 76 games and one goal during a first-round loss to Carolina.