Many were shocked this morning when it was announced that Swedish Center Nicklas Backstrom, who plays for the Washington Capitals in the NHL, would miss the Men’s Gold Medal hockey game in the Sochi Olympics due to a migraine. With Henrik Sedin (pre tournament rib injury), and Henrik Zetterberg (back injury) already out of the Swedish lineup, Backstrom’s loss was devastating to the Swedish depth at centre.
Backstrom Missed Gold Medal Game Due to Positive Drug Test
As the game went on, rumors about the true nature of his absence mounted. It wasn’t a migraine at all, rather Backstrom was pulled before the game by representatives of the IIHF. He had tested positive for a banned stimulant prior to the game, and was not allowed to participate in this important match. Backstrom was centring Sweden’s top line between Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson throughout the tournament. He had four assists in five games.
“I was ready to play probably the biggest game of my career, and two-and-a-half hours before the game I got pulled aside,” Backstrom said, per the Washington Post. “It’s sad.”
As more details have emerged, this is what we have learned.
Backstrom, explained that he has been taking the allergy medication Zyrtec-D for seven years, including during his participation in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The Swedish Olympic team doctors, and Washington Capitals doctors were aware of his use of the medication. Zyrtec-D is a permitted drug but it contains pseudoephedrine that in levels over 150 micrograms per milliliter is banned by the IOC. According to Dr. Mark Aubry, chief medical officer for the IIHF, Backstrom’s level was at 190 micrograms per milliliter.
The 26-year-old Backstrom was tested following Sweden’s quarterfinal win against Slovenia on Wednesday February 19th. He was allowed to play in Sweden’s semi-final win over Finland on February 21st. He was not informed about the positive test result, and that he would not be able to play in the gold-medal game until a mere two and a half hours before puck drop Sunday.
The IIHF has indicated that if Backstrom’s B Sample also tests positive he could be denied his silver medal from the tournament. The Swedish team will not be disqualified as IIHF rules require two positive drug tests before an entire team is disqualified from the tournament.
“It’s an innocent blunder but it’s still a blunder,” Capitals Coach Adam Oates said Sunday at the team’s practice facility in Arlington. “I feel for him because it’s a game he obviously wanted to play. He’s been a big contributor for that team and it’s the biggest game of his career maybe to date. And he can’t play for that? That’s terrible.”
The NHL released their own comments on the situation through Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:
“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,” Daly said in the news release. “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.”
The Washington Capitals indicated that Backstrom’s test result was a result of “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.”
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