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Nicklas Backstrom's PED ordeal ends with settlement, sanity prevails

Ken Campbell
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Nicklas Backstrom (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Nicklas Backstrom's PED ordeal ends with settlement, sanity prevails

Ken Campbell
By:

Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals resolved his dispute with the World Anti-Doping Agency when the parties agreed to a settlement. Backstrom was not exonerated for what happened in Sochi, but the reprimand he received is the miniumum punishment he could receive.

Almost 11 months after Nicklas Backstrom’s drug scandal ordeal began in Sochi, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have acknowledged what everyone seemed to know all along – that the Washington Capitals center was the victim of an honest, but costly mistake.

And, as a result, he’s getting his wrist slapped and we all move on.

The three bodies issued a joint statement Thursday that they had reached a settlement in the dispute, which was to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Mr. Backstrom, WADA, the IOC and the IIHF are pleased that this matter has now been concluded,” the three parties said in a news release, “and wish to clarify that at no time was Mr. Backstrom’s receipt of his Olympic silver medal at issue in the proceedings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

The ordeal began Feb. 23 when, just hours before the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden, Backstrom was banned for the game by the IOC after both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples of his drug test after Sweden’s quarterfinal win over Slovenia 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. Pseudoephedrine is not banned by the NHL.

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 ban Backstrom and awarded him his silver medal. In October, WADA appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for Sport. Backstrom had also appealed to the CAS challenging that any sort of anti-doping violation had occurred.

After what was described as “constructive discussions,” the parties agreed to drop their grievances and settle the matter. That does not, however, mean Backstrom has been completely exonerated in the matter, but basically is seen to be guilty with a really, really good explanation.

“(Backstrom) was found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation and was sanctioned,” WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said in an email to thn.com. “However, that sanction was a reprimand - the minimum applicable sanction under World Anti-Doping Code rules.”

The release goes on to say that: “WADA, the IOC and the IIHF take this opportunity to state that there is no indication that Mr. Backstrom intended to enhance his sport performance by taking a prohibited substance, that the prohibited substance (PSE) was contained within a product Mr. Backstrom was taking for medical reasons, that Mr. Backstrom relied on the specific advice of his team doctor that his use of the product would not give rise to a positive sample, and that he openly disclosed the product on the doping control form at the time of the doping control.”

Athletes are responsible for what they put in their bodies, but what else was Backstrom supposed to do? He had played internationally after using Zyrtec-D for a legitimate allergic condition and cleared it with his team doctor. To hold him responsible in any way would have been unfair. Good to see that sanity finally prevailed. It took almost a year, but it did prevail.

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Nicklas Backstrom's PED ordeal ends with settlement, sanity prevails