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Sabres' Zenon Konopka slapped with 20 game suspension for testing positive

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The NHL has issued a 20-game suspension to Buffalo Sabres forward Zenon Konopka for violating the terms of the Performance Enhancing Substance Program, the league announced on Thursday.

Along with the suspension for such an offense comes the mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health where Konopka will be evaluated and treated if necessary.

Konopka has released the following statement through the NHLPA:

"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."

As most athletes do when they test positive, Konopka went for the over-the counter defense, clarifying whatever substance it was had nothing to do with trying to improve his performance. An almost comical statement coming from a player that has competed in 346 games with just 30 points to show for it.

Better known for his ability to occupy the penalty box than the score sheet, Konopka finished last season having played 36 games with the Minnesota Wild where he collected one goal, one assist and 55 penalty minutes before finishing out the rest of the year in Buffalo after being plucked off waivers in January. He added another point and 33 minutes worth of penalties in 23 games with the Sabres.

Konopka,33, will become a free agent in July, which means whatever team decides to sign him will be unable to utilize him through the first 20 games of the 2014-2015 season.

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