By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, DCpuckDrop
Former Capitals defensemen (and crowd favorite), Nate Schmidt, was suspended without pay Sunday for the first 20 regular-season games by the NHL for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The Vegas Golden Knights star, who played a key role in his teams run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, subsequently lashed out at the NHL in an impassioned and strongly worded statement.
“Microscopic” Trace Amount
The NHL did not elaborate on which particular substance Schmidt tested positive for, but in his statement, Schmidt said that any ingestion of it was accidental. He further stated that officials had found what the player referred to as a “trace amount that inadvertently got into my system at a level that was far too small to have any effect.” Schmidt stated that the amount discovered was “microscopic” and said that experts he had consulted compared the findings to a “pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” If that is fact proven to be true, it will illustrate how stringent, inflexible (and, some might say, ludicrous) the current performance enhancing substance regulations are.
The league stated that Schmidt will be allowed to take part in the Golden Knights’ training camp activities, but he won’t be eligible to play in any pre-season games. The league’s statement also outlined that Schmidt’s suspension was in tandem with a mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for “evaluation and possible treatment.”
Full Statement By Nate Schmidt:
“I am extremely disappointed to learn that I have been suspended for a violation of the NHL/ NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The fact that I’m issuing this statement is surreal to me as I have only used supplements provided by my NHL team and I have always been extremely careful about what I put into my body. Throughout my playing career I have been tested numerous times, including twice last season, and I have never before tested positive. It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance. Not only did I not intentionally take a banned substance, I could not have received any performance enhancement benefit from the trace amount that inadvertently got into my system at a level that was far too small to have any effect. This low amount was consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.
One of the experts in environmental contamination who testified on my behalf at the Appeal hearing described the amount of the substance found in my system – 7 billionths of a milligram/mL – as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Another expert analyzed a sample of my hair and concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.
While I support having a strong Performance Enhancing Substances Program in place for our sport, it is difficult to accept this suspension. I understand that I will miss these games, but I do not agree with the suspension and I will not accept being labelled a cheater.
I have worked my whole life to become an NHL player, and I’m extremely proud to be a player in the NHL. I have never cut corners in order to achieve this goal. I am grateful for the support of the entire Golden Knights organization and I can’t put into words how disappointed I am that I will not be on the ice at the beginning of the season to help my teammates work towards another Stanley Cup run.
I will make no further comment on this matter at this time.”