The NHL has suspended defenseman Nate Schmidt of the Vegas Golden Knights for the first 20 games of the season for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the league announced Sunday.
Schmidt, who emerged as the team’s top defenseman in 2017-18, strongly denied that he knowingly took a PED. The team backed him up in a statement of its own.
“It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance,” Schmidt, 27, said. “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.”
The NHL did not disclose the substance or the amount detected by the test.
Schmidt will be allowed to practice with the team when training camp opens Sept. 13 but cannot play in preseason games.
Schmidt said he took two drug tests last season, adding he has been tested “numerous” times in his career without a positive result. He said he has “only used supplements provided by my NHL team and I have always been extremely careful about what I put in my body.”
The Golden Knights’ statement said they “strongly disagreed with the suspension.”
“We firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional,” the Golden Knights said. “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.”
The expansion Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017-18, their first season in existence, and lost to Washington in five games. Schmidt, who was selected from the Capitals in the expansion draft, recorded career bests in points (36), goals (5) and assists (31). He led the team with an average of 22:14 of ice time in the regular season.
—Field Level Media