By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian forward Danis Zaripov, a three-time world champion who played at the 2010 Olympics, has been suspended for two years after failing a doping test last season in the Kontinental Hockey League, the KHL said on Tuesday.
A statement on KHL’s website said the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had suspended Zaripov until May 22, 2019, after one of his samples contained banned stimulants plus substances prohibited as diuretics and masking agents.
Zaripov’s suspension is a rare case of a doping ban among high-profile Russian national ice hockey players and came as the country says it has taken measures to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.
The 36-year-old Zaripov, who had 16 goals and 29 assists in 56 games with runners-up Metallurg Magnitogorsk last season, told Reuters he would appeal against the suspension. “I’m shocked,” Zaripov said. “There’s nothing else to say.”
The Russian government this month adopted a sweeping plan aimed at curbing doping, while President Vladimir Putin barred dopers and their coaches from receiving Kremlin grants.
Russia’s athletics federation and Paralympic committee remain suspended over reports of widespread doping.
The KHL said the 377 doping tests conducted last season were administered with the help of the IIHF and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), plus the Doping Free Sport Unit of SportAccord, the umbrella organization for international sports federations.
Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA remains suspended over a 2015 WADA report on state-sponsored doping, but last month was allowed to again plan and coordinate testing under the supervision of international experts.
Zaripov won three world championships with Russia and was on the team that lost to Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics quarter-finals.
Zaripov’s suspension raises questions about his eligibility to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), the world’s top league that operates under its own rules.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Reuters in an e-mail that Zaripov would not be eligible to play in the league as long as he is party to a “valid and binding contract” in Russia.
“If he ever became free of his contractual obligation, the situation would have to be evaluated,” Daly said.
Ak Bars Kazan, the KHL club that signed Zaripov to a two-year contract earlier this month, said in a statement that the agreement had yet to come into force because he was still undergoing medical tests.
“All those who violate (anti-doping regulations) must be punished, regardless of their names and titles,” R-Sport quoted Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov as saying following Zaripov’s suspension.
Two other KHL players, former National Hockey League (NHL) player Derek Smith and Russian defenseman Andrei Konev, were also suspended for using banned stimulants, the KHL said.
Smith, a Canadian who played for the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators, will remain suspended until Sept. 2, 2018, while Konev’s ban will last until Nov. 19, 2017, the KHL said.
The IIHF could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty/Ken Ferris/Mark Heinrich)