Russian star forward Yevgeni Kuznetsov, a two-time World Champion and World Junior Champion with the Big Red Machine, today was handed a four year ban from international competition by the International Ice Hockey Federation, after a video surfaced earlier this summer of Kuznetsov ingesting cocaine.
Kuznetsov, the Washington Capitals standout who first played for Russia at the 2009 U18 World Championships, followed by the 2011 and 2012 World Juniors, six World Championships and the 2016 World Cup, was found to have violated World Anti-Doping Code Article 2.1, the presence of cocaine, a prohibited substance. Cocaine was found in a test run at the 2019 World Championships, which Kuznetsov joined following Washington’s surprise exit in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he notched six points in 10 games and won a Bronze medal, which the IIHF today stripped him of.
Kuznetsov is now banned from any IIHF-sanctioned competition until June 2023, which would include both the World Championships and 2022 Beijing Olympics, assuming that NHL players are reinstated to play in the tournament. Any future World Cup of Hockey, however, would allow Kuznetsov to compete, as that event is sanctioned only by the NHL and NHLPA, not the IIHF; as the NHL does not consider cocaine to be a performance enhancing drug, Kuznetsov would not only be eligible, but he has also not been suspended, nor will he be, from his duties with the Capitals.
This is a big blow both to Kuznetsov, who has collected a pair each of World Championship Gold (2012, 2014) and Bronze (2016, 2017), as well as World Junior Championship Gold (2011) and Silver (2012), and has become a regular on Russia’s roster, especially when paired with Capitals teammate and fellow countryman Alexander Ovechkin. While NHL involvement in the next Olympics is still very much up in the air, Russia will be missing a key winger, elite sniper and Stanley Cup champion on their roster until a month after the 2023 World Championships, ironically enough taking place in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Photo Credit: Sport Express – IIHF – HHOF – IOC