Sweden furious over Nicklas Backstrom doping ban
Sweden forward Nicklas Backstrom is out of the lineup for Sunday's gold-medal game against Canada reportedly due to a migraine. (BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters)
Before a gold-medal game in which they were dominated by an overpowering Canadian squad, the silver-medallist Swedes were calling foul.
And after the 3-0 loss Sunday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Swedish officials were attacking the International Olympic Committee in an effort to taint Canada’s gold.
At issue was star Swedish centre Nicklas Backstrom’s positive test for a banned substance and the total bungling of the affair by the IOC. Backstrom was informed two hours before Sunday’s championship game that he wouldn’t be playing.
“We’re all upset by this,” said Tommy Boustedt, the director of development of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association. “Our opinion is the IOC has destroyed one of the greatest hockey days in Sweden.”
By the end of the game, the seeds of a national crisis had been sewn and from coaches to players to officials, the Swedes were up for stoking the fire.
“It sucks, it’s like kindergarten,” Swedish coach Par Marts said at his post-game press conference. “I cannot ice the best team today. We should have the right conditions to compete with Canada and we didn’t have that.”
The IOC reported that Backstrom tested positive for the banned substance, Psueudoephedrine, which is reportedly found in Zyrtec-D, an allergy medicine.
But what fired up the Swedish federation — and subsequently the National Hockey League Players Association — was the way the testing was handled. The IOC acknowledged that Backstrom was tested Wednesday and that he wasn’t informed of the result until Sunday afternoon.
“I’m going to speak from the heart,” Backstrom said. “The last two weeks have been some of the best in my life. I was getting ready to play the biggest game of my career and two-and-a-half hours I was pulled aside. That’s sad.”
While it would be a stretch to suggest that the presence of Backstrom in the lineup would have corrected the imbalance in play is a stretch. But the distraction was certainly a factor and it was clear early in the game that the Swedes needed all the help they could get.
“It’s not the optimal solution, obviously,” Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson said. “He’s a great hockey player so of course it’s a big loss before the game.”
And now that the NHLPA is upset, you have to wonder if it will complicate negotiations for future NHL participation in the Olympics.
“We have an awful lot of questions that we’re going to be asking over the next few days,” NHLPA official Mathieu Schneider told a small group of reporters after the gold-medal game. “We weren’t a part of the process. We weren’t a part of the hearing and I think that’s an issue when it involves one of our players.
“It’s clear that (Backstrom) wasn’t intending to cheat, that he wasn’t doping. Doping is serious allegation but at some point common sense should have prevailed.
“It clearly did not.”