Backstrom awarded Olympic silver medal

Backstrom awarded Olympic silver medal
March 14, 2014, 6:15 pm
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(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Nearly three weeks after being deprived a chance to play in Sweden’s gold medal game on Feb. 23, Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom learned Friday that he will be awarded a silver medal.

According to the International Olympic Committee Disciplinary Commission, Backstrom’s suspension was “fully justified” because of the levels of pseudoephedrine in his body. But the commission also took into consideration Backstrom’s cooperation, the fact he took the medication, Zyrtec-D, regularly and that it was not taken with the intention to get an unfair advantage.

Backstrom told CSNWashington.com that the National Hockey League Players’ Association played an integral role in him being awarded his silver medal.

“Obviously, it means a lot to me,” Backstrom said.

Here is more from the IOC release:

Backstrom, 26, tested positive on 19 February for the presence of pseudoephedrine (PSE) in excess of the applicable decision limit of 170 µg/mL. He was provisionally suspended from competing in the final of the men’s ice hockey competition between Sweden and Canada.

The IOC Disciplinary Commission (DC), composed of Anita L. DeFrantz (Chairperson), Nawal El Moutawakel and Claudia Bokel, found that the provisional suspension was fully justified, not only due to the presence in excess of the applicable decision limit of PSE in his urine sample, but also due to the fact that the athlete conceded at the hearing, which took place shortly before the final match, that he had also taken medication containing PSE earlier that day.

The IOC DC took into account in particular that the athlete had been cooperative, had disclosed the medication in question in the doping control form and had relied on the specific advice of his team doctor that the intake of the medication would not give rise to an adverse analytical finding. There was also no indication of any intent of the athlete to improve his performance by taking a prohibited substance. Based upon these mitigating circumstances, the IOC DC considered that the athlete should be entitled to receive the silver medal and diploma awarded for men’s ice hockey.

Under the IOC Anti-Doping Rules applicable to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, testing took place under the IOC's auspices from 30 January (the date of the opening of the Olympic Villages) to 23 February 2014 (the date of the Closing Ceremony). Within that period, the IOC systematically performed tests before and after events and oversaw the most stringent anti-doping programme in Olympic Winter Games history. In total, 2,667 tests were conducted, surpassing the previous record set at Vancouver 2010 by 518 tests. Of the 2,667 tests, 477 were blood tests and 2,190 were urine tests. 

In a statement released by the NHLPA Backstom expressed that he was glad to finally have his name cleared.

“While I will always be disappointed that I wasn’t able to play in the gold medal game with my fellow countrymen, I’m pleased that my name has been cleared by the IOC. It is important to me that the IOC has acknowledged that I had asked for and received specific advice from my team doctor that taking this allergy medication would not be a violation. In addition, I had disclosed my use of over-the-counter medication prior to being tested. Over the next few days I will review this decision in detail with the NHLPA.”

NHLPA Executive Director Donal Fehr was also disappointed that Backstrom's opportunity to play for a Gold medal was taken away from him.

“We are certainly pleased that Nicklas Backstrom’s name has been cleared by the IOC ruling, allowing him to receive the silver medal that he earned with his Swedish teammates. The decision by the IOC Disciplinary Commission makes it clear that Nicklas was open and cooperative throughout the process and had clearly disclosed on his doping control form the Zyrtec-D medication he had been taking for his allergies.   Moreover, it is also welcome that the decision makes clear that Nicklas had both requested and received specific advice from the Swedish Chief Medical Officer that the allergy medication he was taking would not give rise to an adverse analytical finding.  Backstrom did nothing inappropriate, but merely asked for and followed medical advice from his team doctor.

It is unfortunate that his test results were not disclosed until just prior to the gold medal game on February 23, 2014, four days after the test was done. Had this matter been presented in a timely manner, it is possible that steps could have been taken to resolve this issue before the gold medal game. 

Over the next few days we will of course review the decision in detail and discuss it with Nicklas.”    

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