Our preview of Severstal Cherepovets 2017-18 season will be up later on today, but now we have to take a look at some sad breaking news from the KHL. The league and the IIHF have announced that three players have been suspended following positive drug tests during the 2016-17 season: defenceman Andrei Konev (free agent formerly of Admiral Vladivostok), defenceman Derek Smith (free agent formerly of Medveščak Zagreb), and — most shockingly — forward Danis Zaripov (Ak Bars Kazan, formerly of Metallurg Magnitogorsk). Konev is suspended until November 19th of this year, Smith until September 2nd of 2018, and Zaripov until May 22nd, 2019, with those bans pertaining to both KHL and international hockey. More on Zaripov below…
Danis Zaripov’s is obviously biggest name from that trio of suspended players: he has long been one of the best pure passers in Russian hockey, winning the Gagarin Cup four times and taking home the KHL’s MVP award in 2009. For the past four seasons, he lined up alongside Sergei Mozyakin and Jan Kovář at Metallurg on what was probably the KHL’s best forward line. Prior to his move to Magnitgorsk, Zaripov had spent 12 seasons with Ak Bars, much of it as part of another devastating trio with Alexei Morozov and a number of different “third men.” For the Russian national team, he played at seven World Championship tournaments and at the 2010 Olympic Games.
This summer saw Zaripov, now 36, return to his old home in Kazan, presumably to see out his career amid familiar surroundings, but that is all up in the air now of course. Presumably, we will see an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. One odd possibility for next season: a move by Zaripov to the NHL, which IIHF President Rene Fasel himself today suggested was a possibility. The suspension is officially the IIHF’s, and while normally the NHL would abide by it, the league does have somewhat looser standards on what amount of a banned substance is acceptable. The player himself said today that discussions of a moving to the NHL were indeed underway, but added “I want to continue my career in Russia.”
Some other comments about the situation with Zaripov (will be updated as need be, and all translations, including errors therein, are mine):
“On the eve of the playoffs, WADA sent notification that in Zaripov’s drug test, which he had taken a hundred times, they had for the first time detected pseudo-ephedrine, in acceptable quantities, but with it was… a diuretic. A diuretic is, according to WADA’s standards, kind of like a cover-up drug… Since there is a masking agent and pseudo-ephedrine, despite the legal amounts [of the latter], this is some kind of violation… The next day we received a letter from the IIHF that everything is written on water [i.e. not carved in stone]… the IIHF had not banned the player, and he could compete in the championship and for the team until a final decision had been made.” — Metallurg Magnitogorsk GM Gennady Velichkin.
“I have a long hockey career behind me. And for myself I can say, one hundred percent, that I have never taken anything banned!… This [diuretic] can also get into the body through food additives. We do not know everything that we put in our food… Now I’m trying to understand what is going on. Then I will think about how to proceed. Maybe things will work out somehow. I do not yet know what will happen next. To be honest, right now I am in a state of shock.” — Danis Zaripov.
“If he is guilty, naturally he will be punished. But right now there is no information about how the drug got into him, perhaps there is a reason, perhaps he was being treated [i.e. for an injury]… I would not rush things.” — Russian Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov.
“Zaripov is a legend of Ak Bars, the club together with [Metallurg Magnitogorsk] will provide him with full support as regards his appeal.” — Ak Bars Kazan Director Shamil Khusnutdinov.
“I am surprised that hockey players are so careless. We just follow our rules. Will this situation affect Russian hockey in general? No… These things happen. Certainly, this is a big case, because this is a national team player, 36 years old, and this may mean the end of his career. It is a sad story.” — IIHF President Rene Fasel.
Updates as events warrant, and I will add relevant quotes as I find them.