NHL suspends Caps' Kuznetsov three games after positive cocaine test

Washington (AFP) –


Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov has been suspended for the first three games of the upcoming NHL season for "inappropriate conduct" after the Russian tested positive for cocaine.

The NHL announced the sanction on Saturday, and Kuznetsov said he would not appeal.

Kuznetsov tested positive in May while playing for Russia at the ice hockey world championships in Slovakia.

The Switzerland-based International Ice Hockey Federation has already suspended him from international play for four years.

But positive tests for "drugs of abuse" do not carry automatic suspensions in the NHL.

But league commissioner Gary Bettman settled on the suspension after meeting with Kuznetsov and representatives of the NHL Players Association on Monday.

The NHL and Capitals had cleared Kuznetsov of wrongdoing earlier in May after investigating a video that surfaced on social media showing him sitting by a table on which two lines of white powder were laid out.

At the time he said he had "never taken illegal drugs in my life and career."

On Saturday, Kuznetsov was contrite in accepting the league's punishment.

"I have decided to accept the NHL's suspension today. I am once again sorry that I have disappointed my family, my teammates, and the Capitals organization and fans," he said in a statement posted on the team's website.

"I promise to do everything in my power to win you back with my actions both on and off the ice."

Kuznetsov led all NHL players with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in the 2018 playoffs, helping the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup title.

He had 21 goals and 51 assists last season, when Washington were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.