By Rachel Cohen
With the summer waning down and free agent frenzy come and gone, a last-minute player has come into the UFA fold.
In July, Russian forward Danis Zaripov tested positive for banned substances and was suspended by the IIHF for two years. Zaripov, who told Reuters news agency “I’m shocked”, has now begun the process to appeal. After his ban, Zaripov’s KHL team, Ak Bars Kazan, voided his contract. The 36-year-old is now eligible to play in the NHL and according to several sources, expected to become a UFA. NHL teams who have shown interest include the Vegas Golden Knights and New York Rangers.
According to an NHL release, there were several factors that had them rule in Zaripov’s favor. First, the substance that got him in trouble, pseudoephedrine, is not on the League’s Prohibited Substances List. Second, there were a number of procedural irregularities in the adjudication process that may have resulted in prejudicing the Player’s case. Finally, Zaripov has never tested positive for a prohibited substance during his 20 years playing professional hockey.
Zaripov has considerable Russian national team experience and has played many times with the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Zaripov has won three World Championship gold medals.
More from the NHL:
National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly today released the following statement regarding Player Danis Zaripov (the “Player” or “Mr. Zaripov”).
On or about July 24, 2017, a Disciplinary Board for the InternationalIce Hockey Federation (the “IIHF”) issued a decision suspending Mr. Zaripov“from the participation in all competitions or activities authorized and organized by IIHF and IIHF Member National Associations” for a period oftwo (2) years (ending on May 22, 2019) (the “IIHF Suspension”), for testing positive for WADA-banned substances during the 2016-17 KHL season. Mr. Zaripov has appealed the IIHF Suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”), and his appeal remains pending. In addition to filing such appeal, Mr. Zaripov also applied to the National Hockey League (the “League” or the “NHL”) for a separate determination as to his eligibility for play in the NHL, and with regard to what effect, if any, the League was prepared to accord the IIHF Suspension.
In connection with Mr. Zaripov’s application, the Player authorized the release for review by the NHL of all relevant documents related to his recent positive test in the KHL, as well as those relating to the IIHF adjudication process that followed. On Wednesday, August 23, the Player presented himself to the League by video conference in a multi-hour proceeding during which he (and his representatives, who both attended in person and by teleconference) provided further evidence and additional commentary in support of the Player’s eligibility application. Importantly, Mr. Zaripov also provided written documentation to the League confirming that he no longer has any remaining contractual obligation to play professional hockey in the KHL.
Following due consideration of all of the available evidence (including Mr. Zaripov’s own appearance and testimony — which, as discussed below, the IIHF Disciplinary Board did not have the benefit of), it has been determined that Mr. Zaripov is hereby deemed eligible to sign and play professional hockey in the NHL, effective immediately, and without imposition of any NHL-imposed suspension or penalty.
In determining that Mr. Zaripov is immediately eligible for play in the NHL, several important factors were relied on. First, and perhaps most importantly, it should be noted that because of the differences between the NHL’s Prohibited Substances List and the WADA Code, the Player’s initial test result likely would not have triggered a suspension under the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement because, among other things, pseudoephedrine (the presence of which was below WADA’s applicable threshold in any event) is not on the League’s Prohibited Substances List.
Second, there were a number of procedural irregularities in the adjudication process that may have resulted in prejudicing the Player’s case and affecting the IIHF’s decision, including the fact that he was effectively precluded from appearing in person to present a defense and justification for his positive test. (As noted above, the Player and his representatives have since appealed the IIHF’s initial decision to the CAS, and we believe some or all of these procedural irregularities may prove material to the disposition of the Player’s appeal of the IIHF Suspension.)
Lastly, Mr. Zaripov has had a lengthy career in both professional and international hockey and has never before tested positive for a prohibited substance. He vehemently denies that his positive test was the result of an intentional act (or acts), and he remains committed to finding the underlying cause for his positive test. In this regard, and as a meaningful demonstration of good faith and his bona fide desire to safeguard his name and reputation, Mr. Zaripov has agreed to submit to additional testing (beyond that normally required or permitted for NHL Players) in the event he subsequently signs a Standard Player’s Contract and begins to play in the NHL.
(Photo credit: Darko Bandic/AP)
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