The National Hockey League announced a three-game suspension for Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov Saturday.
The league cited the Caps forward for "inappropriate conduct." Kuznetsov has informed the NHL he will not appeal his three-game ban without pay.
"I am once again sorry that I have disappointed my family, my teammates, and the Capitals organization and fans. I promise to do everything in my power to win you back with my actions both on and off the ice," Kuznetsov said in a statement released by the team Saturday.
ANALYSIS: What should Caps do about Kuznetsov?
"I also understand that I am fortunate to have an opportunity to make things right. Thanks to the Capitals, NHL, and NHLPA, I have taken many steps in the right direction and I'm confident that I will continue on that path," the statement continued. "I am grateful for everyone's support and I'm looking to move forward from this point. While I can appreciate that people may have additional questions, I will not be commenting further on this matter."
The suspension comes after Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine while playing for Russia during the Ice Hockey World Championship in May 2019. The International Ice Hockey Federation, which considers cocaine a prohibited substance, announced a four-year ban from international play for Kuznetsov in late August.
The NHL does not consider cocaine to be a performance-enhancing drug and it is therefore not a prohibited substance under the league's Performance Enhancing Substances Program. However, a statement issued by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly after the suspension left open the possibility of the league getting involved and possibly disciplining Kuznetsov.
"Intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases," the statement read. "Mr. Kuznetsov has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program."
The league said it would not make a decision until after Kuznetsov had an in-person meeting with Commissioner Gary Bettman. That meeting took place on Monday and may have centered around an earlier NHL investigation of Kuznetsov's cocaine use.
Kuznetsov denied using cocaine in May after a video appeared on the internet showing him in a hotel room seated by a table with a white powdery substance and a rolled-up bill.
"I do not always have something to do with what is happening next to me," Kuznetsov said at the time. "I have never used drugs and I am not going to get involved in this. If I have questions, I am ready to undergo a medical examination at any time."
The NHL cleared Kuznetsov on May 31. But five days earlier, he tested positive for cocaine in an IIHF's doping control test at the World Championship.
After the positive test was announced, Kuznetsov accepted the penalty and took ownership of his actions.
"From the first day I took the ice in D.C., the Washington Capitals organization and our fans have been nothing but great to me and my family," Kuznetsov said. "I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward."