Prior to the start of today's Gold Medal match between Canada and Sweden, news broke that Nicklas Backstrom would not be playing.
Myself, along with the rest of the hockey community, assumed that he had suffered an injury in practice, or had unfortunately been stricken with some illness.
Canada would end up winning the match by a score of 3-0, and that's when this situation became really interesting.
I'll try to give you a recap of what happened:
It all started after the press was notified that Backstrom had been suspended for testing positive on a doping test. My immediate reaction to this was that of surprise, as doping scandals are one thing that Swedes generally aren't a part of. Some of the Finnish players and journalists agreed with that notion.
The substance that Backstrom was suspended for was a common allergy medicine.
Backstrom's allergy medication was Zyrtec D— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 23, 2014
Zyrtec D is a permitted substance, however, it can only be used up to certain amounts as it contains Pseudoephedrine. This drug is used as a nasal decongestant, but it contains chemicals that are used to make methamphetamine. During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a Romanian athlete was stripped of her gold medal for using it. Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post basically summed it up with these tweets:
Pseudoephedrine legal up to 150 mg. According to IIHF medical chief, Backstrom level in A sample came back at 190.— Dave Sheinin (@DaveSheinin) February 23, 2014
IIHF medical chief implies Backstrom's silver medal may hinge on result of test of B sample.— Dave Sheinin (@DaveSheinin) February 23, 2014
Wouldn't it be smart to stop taking medication during Olympics? "But we can never imagine 1 tablet could cause these levels," says Sweden dr— Dave Sheinin (@DaveSheinin) February 23, 2014
The Swedes didn't react positively to the news, per Chris Johnston:
Swedish GM says the IOC has "destroyed" one of the greatest hockey days in his country's history by ruling Nicklas Backstrom out.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 23, 2014
I wouldn't go that far, but, it does take away a lot from the fact that Sweden did still manage to win silver.
Henrik Tallinder, defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres, claimed that Canada probably had something to do with it:
"I don't know what Canada is doing or how they found out about it. It was something about an asthma medicine that Bäckis usually takes"
The GM of Team Sweden, Tommy Boustedt, claims that the IOC did this on purpose, and he said that "IOC can count on us suing them".
As you can imagine, Nicklas Backstrom wasn't happy with the whole situation, per Pro Hockey Talk:
My biggest problem with this whole situation is that the IOC probably withheld the test results until today's game. Obviously, we don't know that for sure, but considering that he was tested on Wednesday, you would think that the results would have been back before today's game.
This opens up a couple of interesting viewpoints, including that Finland may have been cheated out of a win. If the IOC knew about the test results prior to the Sweden - Finland semifinal game, then they may have cost Finland a spot in the finals. Backstrom did have an assist on Loui Eriksson's game tying goal.
And then there is the question of why the IOC would want to withhold the test results until just prior to the game. If it was to avoid publicity and scrutiny, they certainly made the wrong decision. Then again, they may not have even known about the test results until 2 hours prior to the game.
As you can tell, there is a lot of speculation going on right now.
I don't think that having Backstrom in today's game would have made any difference for Team Sweden. The game may have ended 3-1 instead of 3-0, but I don't think that Backstrom was that valuable of a player to change the outcome of the game.
As a result, I am not annoyed that he missed the game, rather, I am stunned as to how the whole situation unfolded.
Anyways, this whole situation is bizarre, and there will be a lot of finger pointing in the coming days.
I'll have further developments in tomorrow morning's Quick Hits.