Washington Capitals centre Nicklas Backstrom was a late scratch for Sweden in Sunday’s Olympic gold medal game against Canada.
At first, Backstrom was reported to be sitting out due to persistent migraine headaches. However, things got a bit more clear after the game.
Or should I say, Claritin clear.
Backstrom, who had four assists in five games for Sweden, was held out of the gold medal game after reportedly testing positive for pseudoephedrine, a substance commonly found in allergy medications like Claritin.
According to a Swedish Olympic Committee spokesperson, Backstrom has taken the allergy medication for seven years.
You’ll have to excuse the pun, but this had to be a tough pill for Backstrom to swallow. If he’s taken the medication for so long, why wouldn’t he have hit a positive at other international tournaments?
In that time period, Backstrom competed for Sweden at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, along with three other IIHF-operated events: The 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships, along with the 2007 and 2008 World Championships.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for the 26-year-old centre, not to mention his teammates. After all, they were already without top centres Henrik Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg due to injury, making Backstrom the de facto number one centre for the majority of the tournament.
Backstrom’s positive test is the sixth in Sochi, and it comes on the heels of Latvian forward Vitalijs Pavlovs testing positive for methylhexanamine, leading to his retroactive disqualification from the Olympics.
It will be interesting to see how the International Olympic Committee, along with the IIHF and NHL, addresses the issue. Personally, I see it as a similar situation to Mattias Ohlund, who inadvertently tested positive for a substance found in medication he was taking after eye surgery before the 2002 Olympics. Ohlund wasn’t sanctioned for the positive, and I don’t think Backstrom should be, either.
I just don’t picture someone like Backstrom looking to Claritin to provide the most subtle of boosts.
Of course, times have changed and drug testing has become much more stringent over the last decade or so. Therefore, it may be a story worth watching going forward.
UPDATE – Sweden isn’t happy with the IOC over their testing, but the IOC’s chief medical officer said Backstrom didn’t commit a doping violation, so he should be good to go as he was called an “innocent victim of circumstance.”