According to the Canadian Press on Friday, Latvian hockey player Ralfs Freibergs tested positive for steroids after Latvia's 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Freibergs, a defenseman, was the second Latvian who was caught taking an illegal substance at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi according to Stephen Wilson of the Associated Press.
The other Latvian was another hockey player. Vitalijs Pavlovs was caught taking the stimulant methylhexaneamine after Latvia's narrow loss to Canada which put the small European nation on the hockey map.
Freibergs had one assist in the Olympic hockey tournament. He recorded the assist in Latvia's narrow 5-3 loss to Sweden on February 15. Pavlovs also notched an assist in the Olympic hockey tournament. He recorded his assist in Latvia's 3-1 upset victory over Switzerland on February 18 in the elimination game.
Latvia is very lucky that the International Ice Hockey Federation decided not to strip them of their victory over Switzerland. The IIHF was very lenient in their ruling and announced a team is only stripped of their victories in an international tournament when more than two players are caught taking an illegal substance.
Freibergs attends Bowling Green State University in Ohio. It will be interesting to see if there will be any further sanctions against Freibergs at the NCAA level. Freibergs, would have entered his third year in 2014-15 with the Falcons, but has been punished by the NCAA before. According to USCHO News, Freibergs was suspended 33 games before coming to the United States to play amateur hockey.
Latvia is a rising hockey nation, and Latvian loyalty and passion for the game of hockey is as high as anywhere in Europe. Let us just hope that these two suspensions will not reduce Latvian passion and the game of hockey will continue to grow there.