Zenon Konopka suspended 20 games for taking performance enhancing drug

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Zenon Konopka will sit out 20 games after taking a substance banned by the NHL.

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Sabres free agent forward Zenon Konopka, a faceoff specialist and tough guy, has been suspended 20 games for using performance enhancing drugs, the NHL announced on Thursday.

He'll be referred to the joint NHL-NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse for evaluation and any necessary treatment, and the suspension will be served at the beginning of any new contract Konopka might sign. He's a free agent as of July 1. 

Konopka, in a statement released by the Players' Association, said that he unknowingly took an over-the-counter product that contained a substance banned by the league. He also took full responsibility.

Konopka is just the second player to be suspended by the NHL for PED use. Sean Hill, then of the New York Islanders and later the Minnesota Wild, is the only other, although other NHL players have failed non-NHL-mandated drug tests and have been kept from playing in international competition. 

Here's Konopka's full statement:

"I deeply regret that I have tested positive for a prohibited substance in violation of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. I accept full responsibility for this error. As a professional athlete I am responsible for what I put in my body, and I am to blame for this mistake. 

I want to make it clear that this violation occurred because I ingested a product that can be purchased over-the-counter and which, unknown to me, contained a substance that violated the program. Unfortunately, I did not take the necessary care to ensure that the product did not contain a prohibited substance. I want to stress, however, that I did not take this substance for the purpose of enhancing my athletic performance.   

I apologize to my teammates and to the Buffalo Sabres organization, as well as to my friends and family. I have learned a great deal from this experience, something I hope to be able to share with younger players. I will accept this suspension and continue to work hard to prepare for the 2014-15 season."

This lengthy suspension coupled with Konopka's status as an unrestriced free agent and borderline, fourth-line NHL player could spell the end of his NHL career, but we'll have to wait and see if teams are still interested in acquiring his services in the 2014 offseason.

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