The Russian national team will have to do without star forward Evgeny Kuznetsov for the next four years, but it seems like the Washington Capitals have potentially caught a break.
The IIHF shocked everyone last week when it announced that Kuznetsov had received a massive suspension from their organization after the Russian star had failed a recent drug test. Several months ago, a video surfaced online where Kuznetsov could clearly be seen around a white powdering substance that was cut into lines on a mirror, leading just about everyone to believe that he was in fact using cocaine in the video. However after an investigation from the National Hockey League the Russian player was cleared of any wrongdoing and the story simply appeared to have died out.
However, the IIHF continued it investigation and revealed that, in spite of all his previous denials, Kuznetsov was in fact using cocaine and the IIHF hammered him with a massive four year ban from international competition as a result. This will of course have a tremendous impact on the international events Kuznetsov would have been eligible to participate in, and after the NHL forced its players to skip the Olympics in South Korea, this will likely mean the end of Kuznetsov’s Olympic dreams for the time being.
However, it seems like the NHL won’t take on the same approach as the IIHF. Seeing that Kuznetsov came out and owned up to his mistakes, it seems to be enough for the NHL as many sources, including Scott Burnside of The Athletic believes he will avoid punishment from Gary Bettman and the league. It remains unknown if the NHL can actually take action in such a case when it comes to suspending Kuznetsov for what the NHL considers a “recreational” drug and not a performance enhancing substance.
While cocaine is not a performance-enhancing drug and not explicitly prohibited, the NHL still considers it a "drug of abuse." However, under the CBA, the league does test for drugs of abuse but focuses more on treatment and a positive test can result in "intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment" in certain cases.
Who knows if this lack of discipline will know push Kuznetsov to stop using? Now that he has received his ban from the Russian national team, he might not fear the punishment of the NHL in the near future.
Do you believe this is the right approach from the NHL?