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Failed test keeps Backstrom from Olympic final

by Shawn P. Roarke

SOCHI -- Sweden center Nicklas Backstrom missed the gold-medal game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Sunday against Canada because of a failed doping-control test, Swedish hockey officials said.

The positive test was for excess levels of pseudoephedrine, which was the result of an over-the-counter allergy medicine being taken by the player, Swedish team doctor Bjorn Waldeback said during a press conference Sunday. Waldeback said the medicine was Zyrtec-D, which Backstrom has taken intermittently during the past seven years, according to his NHL club, the Washington Capitals.

According to Swedish hockey general manager Tommy Boustedt, the suspension was levied Sunday by the International Olympic committee, the governing body for all Olympic competition. It came less than two hours before the game, after a hearing with the IOC disciplinary committee.

Backstrom said he last was tested Wednesday after Sweden defeated Slovenia in the quarterfinals.

Sweden lost the gold-medal game to Canada 3-0 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

"I want to say I have absolutely nothing to hide; I have allergy problems," Backstrom said at a press conference after the game. "I've taken Zyrtec-D for many years. It was a little shocking to me, to be honest with you, but at the same time I am here right now and I've got to deal with it."

"I feel like I haven't done anything differently than the last seven years and I've been playing internationally for the last seven years and lots of games and haven't seen this before."

Mark Aubry, the International Ice Hockey Federation's chief medical officer, called Backstrom "an innocent victim of circumstances."

Backstrom was at the Bolshoy Ice Dome preparing for the game when Boustedt informed him he had been summoned for the meeting with the IOC. There he was informed he would not be able to play in the final game.

"I was very sad and obviously ... I felt bad for the guys," a visibly distraught Backstrom said.

Boustedt was more angered by the decision.

"The IOC has destroyed one of the great days in Swedish hockey history," he said.

Pseudoephedrine is not on the Prohibited Substance List in the NHL and Backstrom is not expected to face additional sanctions from the League.

"We understand that Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for a substance banned 'in competition' by the International Olympic Committee," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "It is our further understanding that the positive test was the result of a common allergy medication taken by the player knowingly, with the approval of the team doctor and without the intention of gaining an illegal or improper performance-enhancing benefit. In addition, the specific substance that resulted in the positive test is not currently on the League's Prohibited Substances List.

"Subject to confirmation of the facts as we understand them, and given the fact that the substance is neither prohibited in the NHL nor was used in an improper manner here, we do not anticipate there being any consequences relative to Nicklas' eligibility to participate in games for the Washington Capitals."

The Capitals also released a statement Sunday: "Nicklas Backstrom did not participate in Team Sweden's Olympic gold-medal game on Sunday due to the allergy medication he has been taking intermittently for seven years, including this season while playing for the Washington Capitals, to combat severe allergies. The medicine was approved by the Swedish national team. It is not anticipated that this will impact his participation in NHL games."

Backstrom was listed on the lineup sheet but did not come out for pre-game warmups.

"I think if we are going to compete with Canada we need all of our best players here and that didn't happen," said Sweden coach Par Marts, who stressed Canada was the better team Sunday. "We had some injuries, and of course Backstrom, what happened with him. Of course that affected us. It's only human beings sitting in [the dressing room]."

Having already lost forward Henrik Zetterberg to injury during the tournament, Sweden did not have a healthy forward to put into the lineup Sunday. As a result, defenseman Henrik Tallinder of the Buffalo Sabres was inserted into the lineup. Tallinder played 40 seconds in the game.

Backstrom finished the tournament tied for the team lead with four assists and tied for third on the team in points. He had been playing center on Sweden's top line with Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins.

Backstrom's spot was filled by Jimmie Ericsson, the only non-NHL player on the Swedish team and the brother of Sweden teammate and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.

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