Backstrom pulled from gold medal game after testing positive for banned substance

Feb 23, 9:01 AM

When Sweden faced Canada in the gold medal game on Sunday, they were forced to do so without top center Nicklas Backstrom. While Swedish reports suggested that Backstrom was dealing with migraines, there may be something else going on.

According to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston, Swedish Olympic officials have now confirmed Backstrom tested positive for a banned substance that could be allergy medication. The revelation was first reported by Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski, whose source says Backstrom was pulled out of the game based on a test from Friday.

There will be a news conference after the Olympic hockey medal ceremony. Canada beat Sweden 3-0 for the gold medal. 

Aug 28, 2:09 PM

PHOTO: Nicklas Backstrom finally receives Olympic silver medal

Aug 28, 2:09 PM

Nicklas Backstrom received his 2014 Olympic silver medal Thursday, six months after he was banned from the championship game against Canada at the Winter Games in Sochi due to testing positive for a banned substance.

Backstrom was ruled ineligible for the gold-medal game against Canada back in February after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, a banned substance contained in some allergy medication. It was later determined that the drug was not taken in order to gain any type of competitive advantage.

The medal was handed out during a pregame ceremony prior to a Swedish Hockey League game between Brynäs and Djurgården.

Aug 8, 2:50 PM

Report: Nicklas Backstrom set to receive Olympic silver medal on Aug. 28

Aug 8, 2:50 PM

Swedish forward Nicklas Backstrom is finally expected to receive his Olympic silver medal from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. 

As per Ben Raby of CSN WashingtonPro Hockey Magazine’s Editor in Chief Linus Hugosson tweeted (in Swedish) that Backstrom will be presented with his medal at a pregame ceremony before a Swedish Hockey League game between Brynäs and Djurgården on Aug. 28.

Backstrom was ruled ineligible for the gold-medal game against Canada back in February after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, a banned substance contained in some allergy medication. 

The International Olympic Committee later decided Backstrom was relying on the advice of his doctor and not trying to gain a competitive advantage and, as such, is entitled to receive the medal.

The Washington Capitals forward spent much of the summer skating with Brynäs in preparation for the upcoming NHL season.

Mar 15, 8:10 PM

NHL and IOC to clear up drug testing procedures

Mar 15, 8:10 PM

While Nicklas Backstrom wasn't able to play in the gold medal game at the Sochi Olympics in February, after he failed a drug test due to allergy medication he was taking, he was awarded his silver medal last week.

CBC's Glen Healy reports there will be changes to the way the NHL and IOC communicate and handle drug testing if the NHL goes to the Winter Olympics in 2018.

"Guaranteed if the players to go the Olympics, this will be another area they will clean up. The players association will say 'this can't happen.'"

Backstrom was informed two hours before the gold medal game he would not be able to participate. Team Sweden was informed just 10 minutes prior to puck drop. Backstrom talked about how the opportunity to play in one of the biggest games of his life was taken away from him. 

The procedure in place holds NHL and team doctors responsible for enlightening the IOC on any medical conditions or medications an athlete needs to avoid confusion.

Backstrom was also tested four days prior to the gold medal game. Before any results were made public and any punishment was handed down, Backstrom also played in the semifinal against Finland.

Mar 14, 8:17 PM

Capitals F Nicklas Backstrom releases statement regarding failed doping test, silver medal

Mar 14, 8:17 PM

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom was slapped with a failed doping test the day of the gold medal game in Sochi last month. He would be unable to play with Team Sweden, who won the silver medal.

Backstrom released a statement along with Donald Fehr of the NHLPA Friday after being cleared of the test and awarded his silver medal.

While I will always be disappointed that I wasn’t able to play in the gold medal game with my fellow countrymen, I’m pleased that my name has been cleared by the IOC. It is important to me that the IOC has acknowledged that I had asked for and received specific advice from my team doctor that taking this allergy medication would not be a violation. In addition, I had disclosed my use of over-the-counter medication prior to being tested.

Over the next few days I will review this decision in detail with the NHLPA.

Fehr echoed Backstrom's statement disclosing the NHLPA would continue to work with the forward regarding his allergy medication.

It is unfortunate that his test results were not disclosed until just prior to the gold medal game on February 23, 2014, four days after the test was done. Had this matter been presented in a timely manner, it is possible that steps could have been taken to resolve this issue before the gold medal game.

Over the next few days we will of course review the decision in detail and discuss it with Nicklas.

Backstrom has eight points in his last eight games with the Capitals upon returning from the Olympic break.

Mar 14, 1:22 PM

Capitals F Nicklas Backstrom will be awarded silver medal despite positive pseudophedrine test

Mar 14, 1:22 PM

The IOC announced Friday that Washington Capitals and Team Sweden center Nicklas Backstrom will be awarded a silver medal along with his Tre Kronor teammates.

Backstrom was Sweden's top-line center throughout the tournament before being disqualified from participating in the gold medal game as a result of a positive test for pseudophedrine in "excess of the applicable decision limit of 170 ml."

The IOC's Disciplinary Commission upheld the provisional suspension, but found that there was "no indication of any intent of the athlete to improve his performance by taking a prohibited substance." As such Backstrom is entitled to claim his silver medal and his Athlete's Diploma.

The full decision can be read here.

Mar 6, 2:41 PM

Report: NHL, NHLPA pressured Sweden to blame IOC for Backstrom's positive test

Mar 6, 2:41 PM

In the wake of Nicklas Backstrom testing positive for pseudoephedrine and being disqualified from the gold medal game in Sochi two weeks ago, the Swedish Hockey Federation went on the offensive against the IOC. 

Executive director Tommy Boustedt described the process as "political," and criticized the IOC for sitting on the results of Backstrom's positive test until right before the gold medal game. "Our opinion is the IOC destroyed one of the greatest hockey days in Swedish history," Boustedt was quoted as saying.

While several questions regarding the incident remain unanswered, an explosive report from Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet surfaced this week purporting to shed more light on how the event unfolded. The report accuses the NHL and the NHLPA of applying pressure on the Swedish Hockey Federation and directing them specifically to attack the IOC.

The report claims that the NHL, NHLPA and the IIHF all wanted Backstrom to play in the gold medal game despite the test results. That portion of the report, while interesting, isn't a huge surprise. The IIHF's head doctor called Backstrom "an innocent victim of circumstance" at the time, while the NHL moved quickly to assure fans that Backstrom's positive test wouldn't impact his participation in the balance of this NHL season.

More intriguing is Aftonbladet's claim that the NHL and the NHLPA - miffed that a star player was cast by the IOC as a cheater - convinced the Swedish hockey federation to scapegoat team doctor Bjorn Waldebäck, and to attack the IOC in their post-game press conference. 

Citing anonymous sources, Aftonbladet suggests that the NHL and NHLPA applied pressure on the Swedish Hockey Federation by threatening to hold NHL players back from participating in future international competitions.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has denied the report and commented on it in a follow up article published by Aftonbladet. Daly claims that the league in no way advised the Swedish Ice Hockey Association on how to react to Backstrom's positive test. 

Daly also denied that the NHL pressured the Tre Kronor management team to make a scapegoat of the doctor. "Frankly, we did not know enough about the underlying data in order to feel comfortable enough to accuse someone to take the blame," Daly is quoted as saying (via Google translate). An NHLPA spokesperson also described the reports as "totally false."

While the report seems sensational and relies exclusively on anonymous sources, certainly a positive drug test right before a high-profile event like the gold medal game at the Olympics is a bad look. Especially for a league that has consistently denied having a performance-enhancing drug problem but still doesn't test for commonplace PEDs like HGH.

Feb 27, 1:13 PM

Swedish hockey official petitioning IOC to award Nicklas Backstrom a silver medal

Feb 27, 1:13 PM

Swedish hockey official have contacted the International Olympic Committee on behalf of Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who was forced to sit out the gold medal match against Canada due to a failed drug test.

For his part, Backstrom is focused on helping the Capitals qualify for the playoffs.

"I’m focusing on Washington right now, how we have to deal with this as a team, how we have to win hockey games. That’s what I'm going to do,” he told the Washington Post on Wednesday.

Backstrom and the Capitals are set to face the Panthers in Florida on Thursday.

Feb 25, 1:05 PM

Nicklas Backstrom may have to wait two weeks to find out if he will receive Olympic silver medal

Feb 25, 1:05 PM

Swedish forward Nicklas Backstrom is back in Washington, and still seems quite unhappy about being held out of Sunday's gold medal game due to a failed drug test.

When asked about the allergy medications that led to the failed test, Backstrom said "Who do I blame? Well, I followed the doctor's recommendation," adding "I've had allergies for seven years. Everyone that lives in the Washington area knows how bad it is here."

Backstrom's teammate and fellow Olympian Martin Erat is also displeased with how the Swede's tournament ended.

Backstrom's full comments can be read here.

Feb 23, 11:24 AM

Backstrom on failed drug test: 'I have absolutely nothing to hide'

Feb 23, 11:24 AM

Washington Capitals and Team Sweden center Nicklas Backstrom addressed the media on Sunday, hours after he was unable to play for his country in the men's hockey gold medal game against Canada after failing a drug test. 

Backstrom has taken Zyrtec D for years, tweeted Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski. "It's a drug that contains pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that helps reduce stuffy noses," he writes

Wyshynski has more:

Pseudoephedrine isn’t banned by the World Anti-Doping Federation until it reaches a certain concentration in an athlete’s urine. If it’s over 150 micrograms per milliliter, then the athlete is in violation of doping rules.

Backstrom’s test, taken Wednesday after Sweden’s win over Slovenia, yielded a level of 190 micrograms per milliliter.

Backstrom said he was tested three times before the Olympics began, and after Sweden's game on Wednesday. He only learned of his fate on Sunday, two hours before puck drop in what he called the biggest game of his career. He called the entire situation "sad."  

Sweden, meanwhile, sounds a lot more upset with the International Olympic Committee than Backstrom.

"It's political," Tommy Boustedt, the Swedish general manager, added, implying that the IOC sat on the failed test until hours before Sunday's game in order to make sure the media was all over it. 

Sweden's team doctor said Backstrom, who failed a drug test for a substance found in allergy medication, has been taking an allergy pill every day for the past several years, and was on them in 2010, too, at the Vancouver Games. 

The head doctor of the International Ice Hockey Federation called Backstrom "an innocent victim of circumstances." 

It's tough not to feel for him. 

Swedish head coach Par Marts echoed Backstrom's comments about being saddened, more than anything, by the news. 

"You get really pissed off when these things happen," said Swedish head coach Par Marts. "I'm really sad about it." 

Marts found out that Backstrom wouldn't play when the center did, two hours before the game, and called the atmosphere following the news "a circus," and "absolutely unbelievable." Marts and Team Sweden would have appreciated some more notice. 

"[Backstrom's] been really important to us through out this tournament," said Daniel Sedin, "since we've had a few injuries. [His absence] definitely affected us."

"It's really sad," said Rangers and Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who did all he could to keep Canada at bay on Sunday. "It's really sad news to get just before an important game. No one [on] our team [is] using any illegal substances." 

There's nothing worse than sad Henrik Lundqvist. 

The NHL has also released a statement with respect to Backstrom's failed drug test and allergy issues:

Nicklas Backstrom did not participate in Team Sweden's Olympic gold-medal game on Sunday due to the allergy medication he has been taking intermittently for seven years, including this season while playing for the Washington Capitals to combat severe allergies. The medicine was approved by the Swedish national team. It is not anticipated that this will impact his participation in NHL games.

Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said:

We understand that Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for a substance banned ‘in competition’ by the International Olympic Committee. It is our further understanding that the positive test was the result of a common allergy medication taken by the player knowingly, with the approval of the team doctor and without the intention of gaining an illegal or improper performance-enhancing benefit. In addition, the specific substance that resulted in the positive test is not currently on the League’s Prohibited Substances List.

Subject to confirmation of the facts as we understand them, and given the fact that the substance is neither prohibited in the NHL nor was used in an improper manner here, we do not anticipate there being any consequences relative to Nicklas’ eligibility to participate in games for the Washington Capitals.

In the end, the IOC remains, well, the IOC:

Feb 23, 10:12 AM

Swedish Olympic Committee: Backstrom tested positive for substance in allergy medication

Feb 23, 10:12 AM

The Swedish Olympic Committee confirmed on Sunday that Nicklas Backstrom failed a drug test at the Sochi Games, keeping him out of the men's hockey gold medal game against Canada, which Canada won 3-0

The Associated Press' Larry Page writes:

Swedish Olympic Committee spokesman Bjorn Folin said Sunday that Backstrom tested positive for a substance found in an allergy medication that he has taken for seven years.

Backstrom is the sixth athlete to fail a doping test at the Sochi Games.

Sweden's task in defeating the Canadian hockey machine was difficult enough to begin with. With a roster already ravaged by injury, without their number-one center, the game was a formality. 

Sweden's head coach Par Marts said he found out two hours before the game that Backstrom wouldn't be able to play. 

"It sucks," he added. "It's like kindergarten. I cannot ice the best team today." 

Feb 23, 7:00 AM

Sweden C Nicklas Backstrom will not play in gold medal game vs. Canada

Feb 23, 7:00 AM

Sweden will be without top center Nicklas Backstrom on Sunday when they face Canada in the gold medal game. Backstrom is suffering from migraines and is officially scratched.

Defenseman Henrik Tallinder will replace Backstrom in the lineup.

Backstrom's loss is enormous for a Swedish side already without Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin due to injury. Backstrom had been centering Loui Eriksson and Daniel Sedin on a line that had powered the Tre Kronor throughout the elimination round. With Backstrom scratched, Sweden will only have three centermen in the lineup in the gold medal game.