MOSCOW (Reuters) - The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has cut Russian forward Danis Zaripov's doping ban to six months from two years after new evidence came to light.
Zaripov, a three-time world champion who played for Russia at the 2010 Olympics, was suspended in July after one of his samples was found to contain banned stimulants, as well as substances prohibited as diuretics and masking agents.
In a statement published on Tuesday, the IIHF said it had reached a settlement agreement with 36-year-old Zaripov after he appealed the ban.
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The federation said Zaripov had demonstrated "he did not engage in intentional doping", adding that its decision to slash the ban was based on "extensive documentary and expert evidence that was unavailable" when it had initially suspended him.
Given that the suspension dates back to May 23, the IIHF's decision makes Zaripov eligible to play as of Thursday.
Zaripov's suspension was a rare case of a doping ban among high-profile Russian national ice hockey players and came as the country said it was taking measures to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.
While the International Olympic Committee is set to decide on Russia's participation in the 2018 Winter Games at its executive board meeting next month, the IIHF decision means Zaripov would be free to represent his country at Pyeongchang.
"The national team coaching staff follows the performances of candidates for the team every day and Zaripov, of course, is one of them," the Russian Hockey Federation said in a statement on Tuesday.
AK Bars Kazan, the Kontinental Hockey League club Zaripov had signed for shortly before his suspension, said they had always believed in the player.
"We always knew that Zaripov is a true athlete and professional and we believed in his innocence," the club said.
"We wish Danis new big victories and hope that Zaripov's future career path will be connected with our club."
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Peter Rutherford)