Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom will remember the 2014 Winter Olympics for all the wrong reasons.
After leading Sweden to the gold medal game with four assists in five games, the 26-year-old native of Gavle was banned from playing in the biggest game of his life after testing positive for a substance banned by the International Olympic Committee.
The banned substance is believed to be Pseudoephedrine, which is used in the allergy medication Backstrom has been taking for the past seven years, including this season.
Pseudoephedrine is banned by the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Federation, but not by the NHL.
"I was ready to play probably the biggest game of my career,” Backstrom told reporters after Canada’s 3-0 win over Sweden in the gold medal game, “and 2 1/2 hrs before game I got pulled aside. It’s sad."
Backstrom was not awarded a silver medal. According to a release by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Backstrom is expected to be eligible to play for the Capitals when they resume their NHL schedule on Thursday.
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“We understand that Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for a substance banned ‘in competition’ by the International Olympic Committee,” Daly said in a statement released by he NHL.
“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. In addition, the specific substance that resulted in the positive test is not currently on the League’s Prohibited Substances List.
“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 released a similar statement moments later that read:
“Nicklas Backstrom did not participate in Team Sweden’s Olympic gold-medal game on Sunday due to the 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. It is not anticipated that this will impact his participation in NHL games.”
According to one report, the legal amount of Pseudoephedrine is 150 milligrams and Backstrom’s test result showed 190 milligrams.
Backstrom told reporters he had been tested three times leading up to the Olympics.
"I have absolutely nothing to hide,” he said. “I've had allergy problems for several years."
Sweden’s reaction to Backstrom’s suspension was swift and strong.
"The IOC has destroyed one of the great days in Swedish hockey history,” Swedish team general manager Tommy Boustedt told reporters after the game.
Backstrom reportedly was tested on Wednesday but was not told he would be suspended from the game until Sunday.
“I got the message two hours before the game that something was wrong,” Swedish coach Par Marts told reporters.
During the past seven years Backstrom has competed in three World Championships and two Olympics and had never been banned from a game before Sunday.
''It's too bad he couldn't play,'' Swedish teammate winger Carl Hagelin told reporters. ''We lost a really good player.''