Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was cleared of any wrongdoing and had his Olympic silver medal awarded to him six months month after a positive drug test in Sochi, but if the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has anything to say about it, Backstrom is still guilty of cheating.
A spokesman for WADA confirmed to thn.com that the agency has appealed the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to clear Backstrom of any wrongdoing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
“The decision to exonerate the athlete was recently appealed by WADA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” WADA’s senior manager of media relations and communications Ben Nichols wrote in an email to thn.com. “As with all pending cases, and adhering to the proper and normal respect for the integrity of the legal process, WADA will refrain from commenting on the subject until the appeal has been completed and a decision rendered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
WADA would not say on what grounds it is appealing the ruling, nor would it speculate on whether a successful appeal would mean Backstrom would be once again stripped of the silver medal he received about a month after the Olympics. If the appeal succeeds, it would stand to reason Backstrom would lose his medal and be suspended from international competition. In any event, WADA is either not buying the notion that Backstrom was an innocent victim or believes athletes are responsible for what they put in their bodies regardless of the circumstances.
Backstrom found out just hours before the gold medal game, in which Canada beat Sweden 3-0, that he was banned from the gold medal game by the IOC after both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples of his drug test were positive for pseudoephedrine, a substance found in Zyrtec-D, an allergy medication Backstrom had taken for seven years prior and had used when he played in three previous World Championships and two Olympics. Backstrom claimed he had disclosed that he was using the over-the-counter medication prior to being tested after Sweden’s win over Slovenia in the quarterfinal game.
Backstrom said he had already had the medication approved by Team Sweden’s medical staff, an assertion that was backed up by team doctor Bjorn Waldeback. At the time the chief physician for the IIHF referred to Backstrom as “an innocent victim.”
The IOC later relented on its decision to suspend Backstrom and exonerated him. It also awarded him his silver medal. Pseudoephedrine is not a banned substance in the NHL.
In its ruling, the IOC’s Disciplinary Committee said, “there was no indication of any intent of the athlete to improve his performance by taking a prohibited substance.” It also pinned the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Swedish doctor. “(Waldeback) made a serious error in advising the athlete that his use of Zyrtec-D would not give rise to an adverse analytical finding,” it said.