UPDATE FROM THN SENIOR WRITER KEN CAMPBELL:
The agent for Carter Ashton said his client fully accepts responsibility for what he puts into his body, but wonders whether the punishment in this case fits the crime.
Ashton was suspended 20 games by the NHL for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. In a separate statement, which is provided below, Ashton admits to taking Clenbuterol through an inhaler during an asthma attack. According to Ashton’s agent, Rick Valette, his client has had mild asthma since childhood, but nothing that would necessitate the use of an inhaler.
That apparently all changed this summer when, while working out with a player who plays professionally in Europe, Ashton had a significant asthma attack and was administered the inhaler by his workout partner. Ashton subsequently kept the inhaler, which he used one more time during training camp when another asthmatic episode occurred. Valette said Ashton then immediately went to the Leafs medical staff and got the proper medication, then was tested and the banned substance was still in his system.
The league will not comment on the veracity of Ashton’s claims. In an email to THN, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said to comment on the case would be a direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement: “I can’t comment at all on the case. Strictly prohibited from doing so.”
“He knows where he went wrong, he just didn’t think about it,” Valette said. “But the kid wasn’t trying to cheat. But under the league’s rules you get 20 games for HGH and you get 20 games for making a mistake on an inhaler. That’s the unfairness of it. He did this, he’s not denying it, but I think we need to look at this and I think there has to be more discretion. This is just collateral damage. This isn’t a guy trying to cheat.”
Valette acknowledges that it’s Ashton’s fault and Ashton should have to take responsibility for what goes into his body. But to have to wait until Dec. 21 to play again and lose almost $170,000 in salary amounts to a heavy price for a mistake.
On the other hand, this substance abuse policy has been collectively bargained and players, generally speaking, know they can’t put anything foreign into their bodies without first having it approved. This is not like Nicklas Backstrom, who was suspended by the International Ice Hockey Federation and missed the gold medal game at the Sochi Olympics for failing a test after taking medication that was approved by the Swedish team doctors prior to him stepping on the ice.