According to Ashton, he unknowingly ingested clenbuterol. This is a prohibited substance in the National Hockey League, but Ashton says he took it through an inhaler to help treat asthma.
Clenbuterol is often used by people with respiratory problems as a decongestant or a bronchodilator, but it has a controversial history. It’s banned by the IOC, for one thing, and has a history of being used as a performance-enhancing drug. Katrin Krabbe was suspended for using clenbuterol in 1992 and was banned from sprinting for three years.
Also, celebrities have turned to the substance as a way to lose weight.
In Ashton’s case, it seems like an honest mistake.
“I suffered an asthmatic spasm in late August while in a training session getting prepared for the 2014-2015 NHL season,” he explains. “One of the other athletes I was training with gave me an inhaler in order to help open my airway, which provided me with immediate relief from my asthma attack.”
From there, Ashton says he used the inhaler a second time after another episode early in training camp. He says he used the inhaler without checking to see if it contained any banned substance, like the clenbuterol it did indeed contain, and was in no way seeking a performance advantage.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs support the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and today’s decision to suspend forward Carter Ashton,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said. “At this time, out of respect for Carter and the process involved, the club will not comment any further.”
Ashton is the third player to be suspended under the NHL and NHLPA’s drug policy. Sean Hill was suspended in 2007, while Zenon Konopka was suspended in May of this year for a violation.
Ashton will be automatically referred to the NHL and NHLPA’s substance abuse and behavioural health program as a result of this suspension.