(Reuters) - Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton has been suspended 20 games after testing positive for a banned substance, the National Hockey League said on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Ashton released a statement shortly after the suspension was announced, blaming the positive test on an inhaler given to him by another athlete during the offseason after suffering an asthma attack while training.
"I now recognize that I ingested Clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, through the inhaler," said Ashton, adding that he used the inhaler twice. "However, at no time was I seeking to gain an athletic advantage or to knowingly violate the terms of the program.
"I used the inhaler in response to exercise-induced asthma, a condition that my doctor with the Toronto Maple Leafs has since diagnosed and he has prescribed me with an inhaler."
Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the ban is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment, the league said in a statement.
Ashton, taken in the first round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been held pointless in three games this season and is averaging six minutes of ice time per game.
"The Toronto Maple Leafs support the NHL/NHLPA performance Enhancing Substances Program and today's decision to suspend forward Carter Ashton," said Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue