Probe: Team doctors not to blame

Updated: July 16, 2009, 10:00 AM ET
Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Team doctors are not to blame for the death of rising star Alexei Cherepanov, who collapsed during a Continental Hockey League game last year in Russia.

Doctors with the Siberian team Avangard Omsk had no reason to suspect the 19-year-old Cherepanov suffered from a chronic heart problem and did not prescribe the medicine he was taking, the federal Investigative Committee said Thursday. Team doctors will not face a criminal investigation.

Cherepanov, a first-round New York Rangers draft pick in 2007, died after collapsing on the bench during an Oct. 13 game in Chekhov, a small city outside Moscow. Authorities say an autopsy showed he suffered from myocarditis, a condition that obstructed blood flow to his heart and other organs.

Investigators questioned Avangard's players, coach and doctors as well as other medical specialists after Cherepanov's parents suggested team doctors were negligent in allowing him to play hockey, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

But doctors had no way of knowing about Cherepanov's condition, according to the statement -- which seemed to lay more blame on Cherepanov than anyone else.

The committee said medical experts suspect Cherepanov felt unwell because of his condition but hid the fact from team doctors for fear of being pulled from games.

"Avangard team doctors not only could not have diagnosed Cherepanov with chronic myocarditis while he was living, but could not have even suspected it," the statement said. It said detailed annual checkups since 2002 revealed no heart or circulation problems.

In December, the Investigative Committee said medical experts had concluded from analysis of blood and urine samples that Cherepanov "engaged in doping" for several months before his death.

But Thursday's statement said he had been taking cordiaminum, which apparently stimulates circulation and breathing as well as the central nervous system, suggesting he may have been taking it to treat his condition.

"It is impossible to determine how and with what aim this medicine was administered."

Nobody has been charged in connection with Cherepanov's death.

Avangard's president, general manager and a team doctor were suspended indefinitely from positions in the league, and another Avangard doctor was suspended for two years.

The president of the host club, Vityaz, was also was suspended indefinitely amid complaints about medical services at the arena.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE