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NHL Star Who Helped Spark Last Season's Cinderella Story Suspended

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended for 20 games for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances policy, the league announced Sunday.

The league said that under the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association, Schmidt will have a mandatory referral to the league’s program for substance abuse and behavior health for evaluation and possible treatment.

After the NHL announced the punishment, Schmidt said he did not intentionally take a banned substance and “will not accept being labeled a cheater.”

“It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance,” Schmidt said in a statement. “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.”

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Schmidt can take part in training camp, but is ineligible for preseason games.

The earliest he can return is Nov. 18 at Edmonton.

The 27-year-old Schmidt said an expert in environmental contamination who testified on his behalf at the appeal hearing likened the amount of the banned substance to a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

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Schmidt said he only takes supplements given to him by his NHL team and has never previously tested positive.

The Golden Knights said they disagree with the suspension and “firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional.”

Agent Matt Keator said in a statement that Schmidt “is innocent and this is a wrong decision.”

“He would never risk his principles by taking performance-enhancing drugs,” Keator said in a text message to The Associated Press. “There was no intentional use of a banned substance, which is backed up scientifically.”

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The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Schmidt led the Golden Knights in ice time last season at 22:14 a game. He had 36 points during the regular season and seven during Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup Final.

“I’m extremely proud to be a player in the NHL. I have never cut corners in order to achieve this goal,” Schmidt said. “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.”

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