There was some discrepancy around the timing of when the video footage was recorded. The original caption on the video, which has since been deleted on Twitter, said in Russian, “This is why we lost,” in reference to Russia’s bronze medal finish at the world championships this past week. In a statement to Russian outlet Sport-Express on Monday, Kuznetsov said the video is from a year ago in Las Vegas, during the Stanley Cup finals.
However, according to a person with knowledge of the Capitals’ investigation, the incident actually occurred during Washington’s trip to Las Vegas in early December of this season. That explains why Kuznetsov appears in the video without the beard he sported throughout the playoffs and through the team’s return to Washington and Stanley Cup celebration at Nationals Park two days after the finals concluded.
Kuznetsov was flying back to Washington on Monday when the video surfaced on social media, and he landed to a barrage of messages from reporters and also the Russian national team. In his haste to explain, he initially confused the timeline, the person familiar with the investigation said. Kuznetsov’s interview with the Capitals was in-person.
Kuznetsov’s statement Monday also said he visited a friend’s hotel room and left upon seeing women he didn’t know and “an unclear substance on the table.” He was shown on the social media video FaceTiming someone while in the room but never interacted with the powder. Kuznetsov added that he has “never” done drugs and if “anyone has a question for me, I’m happy to undergo a medical exam at any time."
Kuznetsov was the Capitals’ leading scorer in their run to the Stanley Cup a year ago, registering 12 goals and 20 assists in 24 games. He had 21 goals and 51 assists in 76 games this season. His statement Friday called this “a hard lesson” to learn.
“While I have never taken illegal drugs in my life and career, I would like to publicly apologize to the Capitals, my teammates, our fans and everyone else for putting myself in a bad situation,” the statement said.
NHL players who test positive with high levels of cocaine and marijuana may be contacted by the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and recommended to a treatment program, but it’s not required. Players are drug-tested at least twice, once in training camp and once in the regular season, and they can be subject to random testing during the regular season and playoffs. On Monday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league needed to do more “fact-finding” before commenting on Kuznetsov, but that process is apparently done.
“We have thoroughly reviewed the situation surrounding the video circulated on the internet this past Monday, May 27, and involving Capitals’ Player Evgeny Kuznetsov,” Daly said in a statement Friday. “Our review included, among other fact-finding steps, an in-person interview with Mr. Kuznetsov. While we certainly do not condone or endorse some of the decisions he made on the night in question, Mr. Kuznetsov’s account of the events that transpired aligns with other information we have been able to gather, and we have found no basis to question his representations with respect to what did — and what did not — occur. We consider the matter formally closed.”