New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton was suspended 20 games without pay by the NHL for using a banned performance- enhancing substance that the player says came from an asthma inhaler.
The NHL said Thursday the suspension will cost Ashton over $169,000 based on his salary and comes with an automatic referral for substance-abuse evaluation and possible treatment under the collective bargaining agreement.
Ashton, 23, said in a statement released through the NHL players' union that he will not appeal the suspension.
He said he suffered an asthma attack during training in August and used an inhaler given to him by another athlete that he later discovered contained the banned substance Clenbuterol.
Ashton said the inhaler provided him with immediate relief of his asthma symptoms and that he used it a second time early in training camp for the same reason.
"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 under the league's performance-enhancing substances program," Ashton said.
Clenbuterol is a widely banned substance the World Anti-Doping Agency says can be publicized as a weight-loss drug.
Ashton said he was not trying to gain an athletic advantage or to knowingly violate the league's program. He said he has since been diagnosed by a Maple Leafs' doctor with exercise-induced asthma.
"As a professional hockey player, I recognize that I am responsible for what I put into my body, and I will not appeal my suspension," he said. "While I am extremely disappointed that I have let my teammates, our fans and the Maple Leafs organization down, I will work very hard during my suspension to stay in game shape so that I can help out the team when I am able to return."
Ashton has appeared in three games for the Maple Leafs this season and in 50 since the 2011-12 season, and has three career assists. He was suspended last November for two games for boarding Calgary Flames defenseman Derek Smith.