Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The International Ice Hockey Federation handed Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov a four-year suspension from international competition after testing positive for cocaine.
The IIHF announced Friday that Kuznetsov tested positive for the prohibited substance at the 2019 IIHF World Championship on May 26. He didn't require the analysis of his B-sample and was provisionally suspended June 13.
Kuznetsov, who is under contract with the Capitals until 2024-25 and competes internationally for Russia, is eligible to return to international play on June 12, 2023.
"Recently, the IIHF notified me that, due to a positive test for a banned substance, I would be suspended from international competition for four years," Kuznetsov said in a statement. "I have made the decision to accept this penalty.
"Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in. 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. ... I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward."
In May, Kuznetsov appeared in a now-deleted video in which he sat in a hotel room near lines of a white, powdery substance. After the video circulated on social media, the forward denied ever using drugs.
"We have been fully briefed by the IIHF with respect to the positive test result and related international sanction that has been imposed on Washington Capitals player Evgeny Kuznetsov," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement Friday.
"Unlike the IIHF, cocaine is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and is therefore not a prohibited substance under the NHL/NHLPA performance-enhancing substances program. Instead, it is considered a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases."
According to the league, 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."
Kuznetsov also agreed to an in-person meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss the incident.