The NHL has suspended Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt 20 games without pay for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performing Enhancing Substances Program, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
It is a big blow to the second-year franchise which made history last year after going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Schmidt, a top-four defender, on the team is allowed to attend training camp and practice, but will not be allowed to dress for any preseason games. Once the regular season begins, he will be suspended without pay for 20 games, which will keep him out until Nov. 18, when he would be eligible to play against the Edmonton Oilers. According to Schmidt’s statement, he has already unsuccessfully appealed the ruling. Seravalli adds that the appeal was heard by impartial arbitrator George Nicolau.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski adds that there are two other things to keep in mind with the suspension, including that there is usually more evidence besides a failed test, while the league’s policy on substance abuse comes from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s guidelines for the amount of substance necessary to trigger a ban.
While there is no revelation on what drug was in Schmidt’s system (per CBA rules), the defenseman said in a statement that what was found is considered to be so small that it couldn’t possibly had any effect on his play. He goes on in the statement that an expert on environmental contamination that testified on Schmidt’s behalf, described the amount of the substance as seven billionths of a milligram/ML, which is 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,” Schmidt wrote in the statement. “The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.
Schmidt also wrote he disagreed with the ruling, which will take $482,258.28 in pay away from him.
“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.”
The Golden Knights also released a statement defending Schmidt, saying they “strongly disagree” with the ruling.
“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.”
This is Schmidt’s first-run in Performing Enhancing Substances Policy. Schmidt, who played for the Washington Capitals for four years before being selected in the expansion draft, finished last season with five goals and 36 points. Because it’s his first offense, he will also have to enter the League’s Substance Abuse/Behavioral Health Program. A second offense would cost him 60 games, while a third will result in a permanent suspension. Schmidt will lose all his salary up until 10 days prior to the conclusion of the suspension. Then, during the final 10 days of his suspension, he will receive 60 percent of his salary, according to CapFriendly.