Nate Schmidt’s positive drug test

A weekly sports column from the Free Press

Earlier this month, Nate Schmidt, a defenceman for the Las Vegas Golden Knights was suspended for 20 games after failing a drug test and violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances policy.

Schmidt and his agent rejected the 20-game suspension and denied the player took any banned substances intentionally. The Golden Knights also said they disagreed with the suspension.

Schmidt was instrumental to the expansion team’s record-breaking season, leading all players in average minutes per game (22:14) and has 36 points (a career best) during the regular season and seven during the playoffs.

During the offseason, a maximum of 60 players can get tested as per the collective bargaining (CBA) agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA. It doesn’t matter where a player is. If they are selected they get the call, it doesn’t matter where they are. Even if they are at the cottage they must comply and give the tester the address. A denial results in failing the test.

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And of course, Schmidt’s suspension scared the bejesus out of most of the NHL’s players, especially when the 27-year-old player said in his statement that the sample found in his system was equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized pool. He also claimed he only took supplements provided to him by the Golden Knights.

Performance-enhancement drugs have been a topic discussed for the majority of 2018, especially during the 2018 Olympics in 2018 when a number of Russian athletes were banned from the competition due to a state-wide drug program.

Most of the league’s players have defended Schmidt, saying it’s doubtful that he is a cheater.

Professional athletes, especially those who play and compete at their sport’s highest levels, are extremely careful of what they put in their body. However, mistakes happen and the NHL has yet to confirm or even address Schmidt’s claim about the substance amount detected.

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But a zero tolerance policy is what it is, even if it seems unfair. The NHL and NHLPA have tried to make the league as fair as possible and that should be applauded. If they were to allow Schmidt off with a warning or even flirted with an appeal, it may send the wrong message to current or future players who will do anything to get an edge over their opponents.

The suspension may be a few games too much, but it’s a message and it may also be of note that Schmidt went from being the seventh defenceman with the Washington Capitals to a top-line defender eating up 22 minutes with Las Vegas in just a season.

It’s not even known to the public what substance was detected in the player’s substance.

Of course, the lack of transparency makes it hard to judge if he’s innocent or not but for me, it’s edging on guilty, making the ban seem justifiable.

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