Evgeny Kuznetsov gets 4-year ban from international play after positive cocaine test

Evgeny Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine during the World Championship and has been banned from international play for four years, the IIHF announced Friday. 

The Capitals forward failed the test May 26, the day of Russia’s bronze medal game win over the Czech Republic, and was provisionally suspended effective June 13. He will be eligibile to return to international play on June 12, 2023, meaning he will be ineligible for the 2022 Winter Olympics along with the World Championships in the interim. 

The 27-year-old star has played in six of the last eight World Championships, dating to 2012, and represented Russia in the World Junior Championships before moving up to the senior national team. 

Kuznetsov released a statement via the Capitals saying he has agreed to accept the suspension. 

“Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in,” the statement read in part. “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 waiy I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward.” 

It’s unclear whether the NHL will take disciplinary action against Kuznetsov. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement noting that the league does not consider cocaine a performance-enhancing substance but rather a drug of abuse. 

“Here, we understand that 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,” Daly’s statement read in part. 

“Mr. Kuznetsov has also agreed to an in-person meeting with Commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss his situation and review his conduct prior to the start of training camp preceding the 2019-20 season. We intend to reserve further comment on any additional actions that may or may not be taken with respect to today’s announcement (disciplinary or otherwise) pending the completion of the commissioner’s meeting with Mr. Kuznetsov.”

Kuznetsov joined the Caps in 2013-14 after starring in the KHL. His 20 assists and 32 points in the playoffs on the way to the 2018 Stanley Cup title led all players, though he lost out to teammate and countryman Alexander Ovechkin in Conn Smythe Trophy voting.