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Ex-Gopher Nate Schmidt at the center of controversial NHL suspension

He tested positive for a banned substance.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended 20 games to start the 2018-19 season after testing positive for a banned substance, and the former Gopher strongly disagrees with the punishment. 

The NHL didn't say what substance Schmidt tested positive for, nor did Schmidt. But he did say the test found "seven billionths of a milligram/mL" of a tainted substance in his system, which he equated to a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. 

Here's Schmidt's full statement

“I am extremely disappointed to learn that I have been suspended for a violation of the NHL/ NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The fact that I’m issuing this statement is surreal to me as I have only used supplements provided by my NHL team and I have always been extremely careful about what I put into my body. Throughout my playing career I have been tested numerous times, including twice last season, and I have never before tested positive. It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance. Not only did I not intentionally take a banned substance, I could not have received any performance enhancement benefit from the trace amount that inadvertently got into my system at a level that was far too small to have any effect. This low amount was consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.

One of the experts in environmental contamination who testified on my behalf at the Appeal hearing described the amount of the substance found in my system – 7 billionths of a milligram/mL – as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Another expert analyzed a sample of my hair and concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.

While I support having a strong Performance Enhancing Substances Program in place for our sport, it is difficult to accept this suspension. I understand that I will miss these games, but I do not agree with the suspension and I will not accept being labelled a cheater.

I have worked my whole life to become an NHL player, and I’m extremely proud to be a player in the NHL. I have never cut corners in order to achieve this goal. I am grateful for the support of the entire Golden Knights organization and I can’t put into words how disappointed I am that I will not be on the ice at the beginning of the season to help my teammates work towards another Stanley Cup run.”

The Golden Knights issued a statement of their own, saying they "strongly disagree wth the suspension" and firmly believe that Schmidt has no idea how the substance entered his body. 

"Nate is an honest person with high moral character and great integrity. We will stand by him and support him during this time," the Golden Knights said. 

Schmidt played three years for the Gophers before signing with the Washington Capitals in 2013. He played his high school hockey at St. Cloud Cathedral. 

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