Zenon Konopka suspended 20 games for violating substance abuse policy

The NHL has announced that Konopka will miss just under one fourth of next season after violating their substance abuse policy. The suspension kicks in when he signs his next contract.

The NHL has announced that they have suspended Sabres forward Zenon Konopka 20 games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Here is the league's statement:

Buffalo Sabres forward Zenon Konopka has been suspended for 20 games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.

The player's contract expires with the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. The term of the suspension will be served at the beginning of any new contract.

The National Hockey League will have no further comment on this matter.

Soon after the announcement Konopka made a statement of his own through the NHL Players Association website.

"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."

Konopka played 23 games in Buffalo this season after being picked up off waivers from the Minnesota Wild. In those 23 games he had one assist and 33 penalty minutes. The Niagara-on-the-Lake born forward is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

This is only the second time a player has been suspended for violating the policy, with the first coming in 2007 when Sean Hill was suspended for steroids.