Skip to content

Backstrom: I was tested Wednesday, informed of results Sunday (Update: NHL releases statement)

Feb 23, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT

The specifics of Nicklas Backstrom‘s failed drug test are beginning to come to light.

Following Sweden’s 3-0 loss to Canada in the gold medal hockey final, an emotional Backstrom took to the podium and tried to explain why he was banned from competing in Sunday’s game — and how he learned of the decision just prior to puck drop:

“I was ready to play probably the biggest game of my career, and two-and-a-half hours before the game I got pulled aside,” Backstrom said, per the Washington Post. “It’s sad.”

Here’s Backstrom’s take on the incident, from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston:

Ergo, Backstrom competed in Sweden’s 2-1 semifinal win over Finland following his failed test on the 19th.

Here’s the IIHF’s side of things, from WaPo’s Dave Sheinin:

Backstrom, 26, said he’s been taking allergy medicine daily for the last seven years, with a Swedish team doctor claiming that included the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Backstrom had been a vital contributor for Sweden leading up to the gold medal game in Sochi, notching four assists through five games while averaging over 18 minutes per night. What’s more, his presence in the middle was crucial as Sweden had lost a pair of centers — Henrik Zetterberg, who was hurt during the tournament, and Henrik Sedin, who was removed from the team just prior to the start of the Games.

As for why Backstrom’s test results came back so late?

According to Sheinin, the IIHF medical chief said “we have a lot of tests going on.”

UPDATE: The NHL has issued the following statement…

“We understand that Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for a substance banned ‘in competition’ by the International Olympic Committee. 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.”

  1. btlpper68 - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    That’s just bs facts they had 4 days and they tell him an hour before one of the biggest hockey games in sweeden’s history? Garbage

    • borderline1988 - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Why does it matter when they tell him?

      Swedes were completely over-matched anyways, no way he would have made a difference. You could count the number of real scoring chances Sweden had on one hand.

      • c9castine - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        thats BS…you tell them earlier to give them time to prepare for the loss of one of the best centers around.

      • ewampus - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:23 PM

        It doesn’t matter if the team was overmatched or not. What they did to this guy is inexcusable considering to magnitude of this game for the individual and the nation.

    • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      What I find ironic is that a very similar situation had occurred in Vancouver 2010, where another player tested positive for elevated levels of pseudoephedrine.

      If one player had already been warned and potentially suspended from the Olympics, you’d think that doctors, staff and players would look into what is acceptable and what is not by the IOC.

      Yes, I would have loved to see Backstrom in the game, and yes it was probably the biggest game of his career (which will not happen again). But rules are rules. If you break them you pay the consequences.

      Unfortunately thats what happened.

      Imagine if they got the samples done before the game against Finland…and Sweden lost that game. There would be uproar as well.

      Timing is irrelavant at this point IMO.

    • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      Backstom, the coach, the trainers, the medical staff, the Swedish Olympic committee etc….

      All had how many days since the Swedish team was selected to ready this link.

      Now under the stimulants list it clearly states

      “Stimulants directly affect the central nervous system, increasing blood flow and heart rate. Stimulants that are banned include amphetamines, beta-2 agonists, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, fencamfamine, cocaine, methamphetamines, mesocarb, and other substances with similar chemical structures and biological effects, including, but not limited to, the following:”

      Now that was easy for me, the average Joe to find.

      Also, looking back and remembering that the same comments about how much it was a joke to suspend Visnovsky for a few days in Vancouver 2010 due to a cold medication. You’d think you people would learn the first time.

      To play the “woe is me” card should not apply this time. Backstrom was in Vancouver 2010, so was not oblivious to these medical terms.

      Even if he used them for the past 7 years…its on the list. Common sense was missing on the who Swedish staff and also Backstrom should have known better as well to read the side of the labels.

  2. jimw81 - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    and that’s it folks. i hope everyone enjoyed nhl in olympics for the last time. IOC and IIHF are corrupt.

  3. jimw81 - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    that statement by nhl basically says goodbye ioc, good luck finding viewers.

  4. dirtydrew - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    This is why the Olympics is a joke. Just a big money transfer from the public to the private for the ” spirit ” of the games. Allergy meds…really?

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      listen dirty d, it’s not the allergy medication that is banned. It is one of the ingredients contained in those small pills. That specific ingredient, when taken in abundance can give one a competitive advantage. “Pseudoephedrine legal up to 150 mg” “Because [Backstrom’s sample] was beyond level [allowed]”

      What is it that you don’t agree with?

      Pseudoephedrine is a sympathomimetic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine chemical classes. It may be used as a nasal/sinus decongestant, as a stimulant, or as a wakefulness-promoting agent.

      Stimulants (also referred to as psychostimulants) are psychoactive drugs that induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical functions or both.

      A wakefulness-promoting agent (eugeroic) is a type of psychoactive drug which improves wakefulness and alertness, and reduces tiredness, drowsiness, and the need for sleep.


      • c9castine - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        temporary improvements in either mental or physical functions or both?

        clearly you havent tried any stimulant drugs in your life, because you’d know they improve nothing.

        thanks doctor.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        True! I’ve never done drugs. However, I believe the IOC knows a bit more than you and I do. Which is why I uses sources such as wikipedia to learn. I also remember Ben Johnson was stripped of a medal because the IOC felt the drug in his system gave him an unfair advantage, and for that same reason MLB suspended A-Rod for a full season.

      • c9castine - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        all I’m saying is if your going to make your mind up about something like that, ask a doctor, or have first hand experience. being hopped up on stimulants is not going to improve anything you do in relation to high level sports.

        taking allergy medicine is no different than drinking a cup of coffee or slamming a red bull. and i know those two things aren’t banned. thats why there is issues with the process. it should be vetted.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        Then, why is pseudoephedrine a banned substance? According to what I read pseudoephedrine can give a player an unfair advantage.

        I’m not ready to go against the expertise of the IOC on a subject matter than I do not know. Are you?

        “The exact number of players who use Sudafed, a nonprescription drug that contains the stimulant pseudoephedrine, in an effort to boost their performance on the ice, is unclear.”

      • c9castine - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        its not right? just over 150 mg.

        so they banned him not for taking it, but having a slightly higher dose in his body. really??

        like i said is drinking a cup of coffee banned? its a classified stimulant of which you can put a lot of in your body.

        there is no issue of expertise here, it is the IOC’s opinion based on the information they have in front of them. that opinion and moreover their process is being challenged, and I think rightfully so.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        Is caffeine a banned substance? IOC’s opinion about what? Surely you’re not telling us that the IOC decided to ban Backstrom based on their opinion. Tell me you are much smarter than that. Yes?

      • c9castine - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:02 PM

        Where is the study that definitely concludes that a player that took 40mg additional of psuedophedrine is a better performer?

        Any banned substance is so because of the opinion that it enhances a performance. To my knowledge its nearly impossible to discern its effects in a measurable way, as all people and athletes are built differently, their bodies react differently to substances, and they are at their natural state all different performers of different levels. Certainly, with some substances, there is much more clear evidence to support the notion that they are performance enhancers, such as measurable gains in strength, or aerobic capacity. Those substances are generally accepted as banned, and not typically argued with.

        As stated there is good reason to argue the validity of the claim that a player taking allergy medicine, not simply banned but banned past a certain dose, would have had had an advantage over other players because of a slightly heavier than normal dose of allergy medicine.

        My point in posing the question “Is caffeine a banned substances” is to lay the groundwork for a legal basis for banning a player on one substance or another. Both drugs are known stimulants. Both are legal and easily store bought, and quite commonly ingestive by the “daily citizen”. It is not a substance banned in the NHL…many reasons for arguing the case.

        Please lets not get into trying to tell me I’m stupid. You are the one who is letting other entities do the thinking for you.

      • saints97 - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        If Zyrtec (or any other allergy med that is based in pdeudoephedrine) is taken as directed, he wouldn’t have had nearly 190 mg in his body at any time.

        Now, the real question is why was he doubling (at least) his dosage. That wouldn’t help with allergy issues, but it would help with energy levels.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        Yep! I agree saints97, which is why I believe the doctors failed to do their job, or Backstrom didn’t listen to their advice. Sweden must open an investigation to clearly understand why this happended.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        c9, I suppose you don’t like to do your own research…..

        Pseudoephedrine enhances performance in 1500-m runners.

        The finding was that 2.5 bw pseudoephedrine ingested 90 min preexercise improves 1500-m running performance.

        Pseudoephedrine is an over-the-counter drug to relieve nasal and sinus congestion. Although it has been suggested that pseudoephedrine could be a stimulant and ergogenic aid, pseudoephedrine was recently removed from the banned substance list by the International Olympic Committee and placed on the monitoring program (from January 2004). It was felt that evidence was lacking for an ergogenic effect, although few studies have investigated the effects of pseudoephedrine on exercise performance. This study, therefore, aimed to investigate the effects of pseudoephedrine on 1500-m running performance.

        In a double-blind, randomized crossover design, seven male athletes completed two 1500-m running trials on an outdoor track after having completed a familiarization trial. All trials were 7 d apart. After a 12-h overnight fast, subjects reported to the laboratory and received a standardized breakfast (energy asymptotically equal to 500 kcal 50% CHO). Subjects were given either 2.5 bw pseudoephedrine or 2.5 bw maltodextrins (placebo) in gelatin capsules 70 min before the start of the warm-up, which started 20 min before they ran 1500 m all-out. Pre- and postexercise blood samples were collected and analyzed for lactate and glucose concentrations, partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) and carbon dioxide (PCO2), and percent oxygen saturation.

        Pseudoephedrine significantly decreased time to completion of 1500-m time trials in the present study by 2.1% (from 279.65 +/- 4.36 s with placebo to 273.86 +/- 4.36 s with pseudoephedrine) with no reported side effects. No changes in the measured blood parameters were found, suggesting a central effect of pseudoephedrine rather than a metabolic effect.

      • chicagobtech - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        Joey, the study was performed with seven athletes? That sample pool is too small to be of any valid use. Were this a proper clinical research test that pool would be on the low end of a Phase 0 test. Phase 0 tests are rarely done, in almost all cases they can be rolled into the Phase 1 test. Phase 1 tests are a few dozen people, Phase 2 tests are a few hundred people, and Phase 3 tests are in the low thousands. If the IOC is going to follow the suggestions of a group that is using bad methodology (in this case the sample size) then it’s shame on the IOC and their doctors.

      • joey4id - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        chicagobtech, I’m certainly no expert in this field. I can only go by info I find from researching and reading. The WADA set the limit for substances. The survey I posted here is not one that was performed by the WADA.It demonstrates that pseudoephedrine can enhance performance, which is why it is a controlled substance as opposed to a banned substance. Perhaps if I dig a little deeper I will find the sample size and testing environment used by the WADA.

      • joey4id - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        WADA/Science & Medicine

        Pursuant to the Code, WADA is responsible for annually preparing and publishing the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods in consultation with panels of experts in the field as well as the Agency’s many stakeholders. The Agency also fosters scientific research dedicated to developing new and improved detection methods for performance-enhancing substances and methods. WADA is responsible for accrediting
        the world’s network of anti-doping laboratories. WADA monitors the
        Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) process implemented by anti-doping organizations around the world to ensure compliance with the International Standard for TUE. In addition, the Agency explores new models for enhanced detection such as the Athlete Passport Program (whereby an athlete’s biological parameters are monitored, which can reveal doping).

  5. joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Again, this is totally on the doctors. It is their responsibility to ensure athletes are not taking banned substances. Hockey athletes are not the only ones being tested. Since Wednesday there were many medals given, and many tests to be performed before the men’s hockey gold medal game. It’s unfortunate for Backstrom, and when and how he was informed, but it’s more important for the IOC to maintain it’s standard, which they did. Now it’s time to focus on earning the paycheck (which he does very well) and help the Caps make the playoffs.

    • grocerystick101 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      I think it’s clearly more important for the IOC to re-analyze their standard than to maintain it. I’m not a doctor and I’m assuming you aren’t either. Any amount of stimulant that can be ingested through over the counter allergy medicine, in my mind, is not nearly enough to make any significant difference in a game involving forty of the best hockey players on earth. Geez, someone will probably get banned for using the wrong toothpaste next time.

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:29 PM

        What we think in our minds is irrelevant. Backstrom was banned because his level of a banned substance was too high. The World Anti Doping Agency is responsible for identifying banned substances, and establishing the guidelines and acceptable thresholds. Why the WADA set that specific limit for pseudoephedrine is beyond me. I could be wrong, but I assume they had doctors perform research to come up with that number. The IOC is responsible for the testing process during the games.

      • grocerystick101 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        What we think in our minds is extremely relevant, because questioning minds will ask how it is logical to ban someone over allergy medication rather than just accept it as fact.

  6. timmons94 - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Total bs. I take same stuff from target daily for years as well for nasal congestion from allergies. Don’t think it mattered Canada was great, but wow he misses on playing for gold

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      What! You take your meds from targets. No chance you would fail an Olympic doping test because they’re probably selling you counterfeit drugs void of any active ingredients. 😉

    • tracypep1 - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      It is total BS…Canada was great, but so was Sweden until Backstrom was removed…
      This had to have an effect on his team mates too. Sweden was reeling in this game over the controversy, they were not competing. I would have loved to see what Sweden could have done with the team that got them to the gold medal game. We’ll never know.

  7. sportsfan69 - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    This is why the NHL will not be participating in anymore Olympic games for a long time. B-S.

  8. chaseutley - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Popping for Claritin cost him a chance to skate for a gold medal. Sheesh!
    Without NHLers in the next Winter Olympics, I’m running out of reasons to tune in.

  9. csilojohnson - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    When they told him doesnt matter. Nor does whether or not he wouldve changed the outcome.
    He could have his silver medal taken. As well as a major embarassment to him his family and his country. Over a common decongestant. Lame.
    We live in a world filled with rule s and laws, void of any common sense.

  10. esracerx46 - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    If you have allergy problems go get allergy shots. Its time consuming and expensive, but speaking first hand its worth it. Pills only mask the allergy problem, shots make it go away.

  11. djshnooks - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    This garbage was fixed to help Canada.

    But please stop with the “main” and “vital” contributor label…he had FOUR ASSISTS!

    Pat Kane had that for a non-medal team…so 4 assists cannot be that “vital!”

  12. 127taringa - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Canada ‘wins’ gold but needed All-Canadian Referees and a key player banned on game to do it.
    Perhaps an asterisk should be put by this one too. In 2010 it was refusal to make arena dimensions to specification in order to help the team.

    Backstrom should of played and been officiated by a neutral crew. Canada would of probably still won but I guess we will never know.

  13. drewsylvania - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    “Nicklas Backstrom was tested on Wednesday and only told about the fail two hours before today’s game.”

    “Ergo, Backstrom competed in Sweden’s 2-1 semifinal win over Finland following his failed test on the 19th.”

    Not necessarily. How long does it typically take the IIHF to process a test, then suspend a player?

    • 127taringa - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I also wonder what the rule is about stripping medals from a team with and ineligible player. If the player was a skier the medal would be stripped would it not?

  14. billsboy88 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Studies on alertness drugs like adderal have shown that the increase in alertness is a purely mental yet, intentional effect of the drug. Users of the drug feel it helps them focus on things like tests/exams but in reality it does little to actually improve their scores.

    In other words, adderal doesnt make you smarter and psuedophedrine doesn’t make you a better hockey player, even if you think it does. The IOC may as well ban caffeine if this is the case they are making.

  15. flyerspsu - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    Overly and unnecessarily enforced drug law with ridiculously severe punishment? what is the U.S?

    in all seriousness this really sucks for Backstrom, gets prohibited from playing in the biggest game of his career for taking allergy medicine and even worse he might not even get his well deserved Silver medal

  16. jimw81 - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    what really bothers me about this is this ioc probably did selective testing. they didnt do heavy testing on the potheads doing the half pipe but they did probably tested nhl players

  17. jake1199 - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    Are u kidding me! First Peter Forsberg complains about the refereeing cause it was all Canadians and now this? They got caught fair and square! The Swede
    team doctors ok’d the drug and they new! If they didn’t they should have asked the IOC! Always a pointing blame! It wouldn’t have made a difference anyways as Team Canada had to much fire power!

  18. pfhockey - Feb 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Pretty Suspicious.

  19. patshal - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    He shouldn’t have been suspended from that game. That’s horrible. I can’t imagine being falsely accused of doing something. His intention was not to cheat. If it was approved by his coach, it proves it was an allergy medication. I don’t see the NHL in the Olympics in 2018 because of injuries and because of incidents like this. It’s gone too far. I’d rather have NHL players but I think it’s going back to college players.

  20. kastout11 - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Bogus, banned for the biggest game of his life and for a banned substance used in his allegery medication. I am upset because I think Team Sweeden had a reasonable chance to beat Team Canada. I know it is a pretty big “if”, but if Sweeden had H. Sedin, Zetteberg and Backstrom, I think they not only could have, but would have beaten Team Canada. Unfortunately, because of the IOC, we will never know who would have won.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (1724)
  2. P. Kessel (1489)
  3. M. Richards (1252)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1084)
  5. N. Backstrom (1063)