Carter Ashton of the Toronto Maple Leafs has become the third player in NHL history to be suspended under the league's Performance Enhancing Substances Program, picking up a 20-game ban Thursday for using a drug called clenbuterol.
Ashton, in a statement release by the NHLPA, claims that he used the drug during offseason training following an asthma episode. The inhaler he used that contained clenbuterol belonged to a fellow athlete he was training with, and Ashton says he kept the inhaler and used it one other time during training camp.
"Unfortunately, I incorrectly assumed that there were no problems associated with the use of this inhaler and I used it without checking to see whether its contents were permissible," Ashton said. "I now recognize that I ingested clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, through the inhaler. However, at no time was I seeking to gain an athletic advantage or to knowingly violate the terms of the program. I used the inhaler in response to exercise-induced asthma, a condition that my doctor with the Toronto Maple Leafs has since diagnosed and he has prescribed me with an inhaler."
Ashton claimed full responsibility for consuming the banned substance.
An FDA spokesperson told us that clenbuterol is not an approved active ingredient in any drug product intended for human use in the United States. We believe the same is true in Canada, but are still waiting for a response from officials there. If the substance is indeed banned in both countries, that raises the clear question: why was it in an inhaler at all? It's possible that the athlete who provided Ashton with the inhaler was from a European country where the drug is approved.
Clenbuterol is used as a fat-burning drug among weightlifters, which is presumably why it's on the NHL's banned substance list.