In case you missed it yesterday, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended 20 games for violating the NHL’s / NHLPA’s Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Schmidt was found to have trace amounts of a banned substance in his system at levels high enough to warrant the stiff suspension.
Here’s the official announcement regarding the suspension, courtesy of the Golden Knights’ official social media account:
“We were notified that the NHL has suspended Nate Schmidt for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. While we respect the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and are committed to its success, we strongly disagree with the suspension. We firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional. Based on our conversations with Nate, analysis from independent medical experts and sworn testimony from the parties involved, we believe it is clear Nate was not able to reasonably ascertain how the substance entered his body.
Nate is an honest person with high moral character and great integrity. We will stand by him and support him during this time.”
Schmidt himself then took to social media to write her own personal statement, refuting the assertion that he’s a cheater or that he knowingly took a banned substance.
Check out the strong wording in this statement:
“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.”
One thing’s for sure… Schmidt is NOT happy being branded a cheater. While it seems likely that he took this performance enhancing drug by mistake, the fact remains that the NHL and the NHLPA have very strict rules regarding banned substances. To be honest, it’s surprising that we don’t see suspensions like this handed out more often. No word yet on whether or not Schmidt will file an appeal, but based on his wording it sounds like he may have already lost out on appeal. Tough pill to swallow… so to speak.