Updated: Nicklas Backstrom sits out gold-medal game after testing positive for banned substance

February 23

Nicklas Backstrom, right, and Swedish team doctor Bjorn Waldeback discuss the center’s suspension from the gold-medal game after he tested positive for a banned substance. (EPA/SRDJAN SUKI)

Updated 11:57 a.m.: The Swedish hockey officials have confirmed that Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom missed the gold-medal game Sunday in Sochi after testing positive for a banned substance. Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski first reported that Backstrom violated the International Olympic Committee’s anti-doping policy.

“I got the message two hours before the game, that there was something wrong,” Swedish Coach Par Marts told reporters in Sochi, according to the Post’s Dave Sheinin.

An emotional Backstrom, 26, met with reporters in Sochi as well to explain that he has been taking the allergy medication Zyrtec-D for seven years. While Zyrtec-D is a permitted drug, it contains pseudoephedrine that in levels over 150 micrograms per milliliter is banned by the IOC. Backstrom’s level was at 190 according to Dr. Mark Aubry, chief medical officer for the IIHF.

Backstrom was tested following Sweden’s quarterfinal win against Slovenia on Feb. 19 but wasn’t informed about the positive result, and that he wouldn’t be able to play in the gold-medal game until hours before puck drop Sunday.

“It’s an innocent blunder but it’s still a blunder,” Capitals Coach Adam Oates said Sunday at the team’s practice facility in Arlington. “I feel for him because it’s a game he obviously wanted to play. He’s been a big contributor for that team and it’s the biggest game of his career maybe to date. And he can’t play for that? That’s terrible.”

The NHL released a statement from Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly about Backstrom testing positive for a substance banned by the IOC but that it is not banned by the NHL, which means this ruling isn’t expected to impact the center’s ability to play for the Capitals once he returns to North America.

“It is our further understanding that the positive test was the result of a common allergy medication taken by the player knowingly, with the approval of the team doctor and without the intention of gaining an illegal or improper performance-enhancing benefit,” Daly said in the news release. “Subject to confirmation of the facts as we understand them, and given the fact that the substance is neither prohibited in the NHL nor was used in an improper manner here, we do not anticipate there being any consequences relative to Nicklas’ eligibility to participate in games for the Washington Capitals.”

The Capitals also released a statement reiterating that Backstrom’s positive test was the result of “allergy medication he has been taking intermittently for seven years, including this season while playing for the Washington Capitals to combat severe allergies. The medicine was approved by the Swedish national team.”

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