As warmups were underway in Bolshoy Ice Arena for the 2014 Winter Olympics gold medal hockey game between Sweden and Canada, a terse message was relayed by Team Sweden: Nicklas Backstrom would not play in the game due to "migraine headache".
Shortly thereafter, we learned that Backstrom's absence was not related to his health but to a IOC suspension due to a failed drug test.
Wait, what? Nick Backstrom a damn dirty doper? Unpossible! But apparently true, as word got out that Mean Lars had been found to have an unacceptable level of pseudoephedrine in his system from over-the-counter Zyrtec-D allergy medication. The same medication he's been taking daily, for years.
RMNB provided a very nice roundup of the early news, press conference, and reactions around the hockey press.
Here's what came after:
- The Process:
- NB19's hearing with the IOC - from the inside. [Expressen (via GoogleTrans)]
- An experienced bicycle racer who is familiar with international anti-doping regimens and also the unique challenges of elite athletes with severe allergies provides some insight on the process as it may relate to Nicklas. [Pete Rides Bikes]
- The Officials:
- NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly released the NHL's official statement. In short, Zyrtec-D is not on the NHL's banned list, and "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." [NHL.com]
- The Caps released their own statement essentially affirming the NHL's position. [NHL.com, NBC4]
- Swedish hockey officials furious. [Puck Daddy, WSJ, Toronto Sun, Reuters, Telegraph]
- NHLPA none too pleased, either. [PHT]
- IOC is confident in success of anti-doping program... [AP]
- ... but has apparently issued some form of apology ("We came with a late notice...") [Aftonbladet (link in Swedish)]
- ... though IOC medical chief Arne Ljungqvist is "unsympathetic" to Sweden's outrage. [Aftonbladet (link in Swedish)]
- In an interesting twist, Finland's anti-doping chief does not find Team Sweden's arguments credible and believes that NB19 should actually be suspended (from international competition) for two full years. [Aftonbladet (link in Swedish)]
- And as is proper, NB19 has the full support of his coach. [RMNB]
- The Pundits:
- The drug-testing process failed Nicklas Backstrom... [ESPN]
- ... and destroyed Sweden. [NHL.com, Sporting News]
- A sad way to end these Games and also the most IOC thing ever. [canada.com, Expressen (via GoogleTrans)]
- Our Swede-intensive SB Nation brethren take a stab at the situation. [Winging it in Motown]
- The Teammates: