Bull suspends but backs Torion
- Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran () - April 30, 2003 - 12:00am
The Red Bull team management said yesterday it was imposing its own indefinite suspension on Jimwell Torion but would lend support to ensure the player wouldn’t commit the same mistake again.

"What’s wrong is wrong. Jimwell admitted he did something wrong pero hindi namin siya pababayaan. Kasi kung pabayaan mo yan, baka tuluyang masira ang buhay. So dapat tulungan siyang makabangon," said Red Bull team owner George Chua.

Chua said the team will continue to support Torion as long as it does not violate league rules.

"Kung kailangang ipa-
drug test siya araw-araw para masigurong hindi na umulit, gagawin namin," said the amiable Red Bull team owner.

The team management and coaching staff believed Torion was not a habitual drug user and was only tempted to try shabu on the prodding of his old friends during their brief stay in Cebu last month.

"He was never late in practice. Kung talagang naga-addict iyan, marami ng ginawang problema sa team iyan kasama na ang late na dating sa ensayo. But he never did that," said coach Yeng Guiao.

Team manager Tony Chua, meanwhile, said they had taken their own drug test on a urine sample by Torion last Saturday. The result showed Torion was already clean of any illegal substance.

habitual user iyan, baka positive pa rin ang result nang drug test namin," said Red Bull team physician John Lim.

Faced with a career-threatening problem, Torion, gracing the PSA Forum yesterday, appealed for understanding and said he was going to visit PBA commissioner Noli Eala sometime this week "to personally apologize to him for the wrong I’ve done."

The 28-year-old Torion said he was abiding by the PBA decision and even offered to appear before communities to tell the youth to "stay away from drugs so as not to suffer my fate."

"Nahihiya ako sa kasalanang nagawa ko,"
said Torion. "I apologize to the PBA, my co-players and team officials, particularly Boss George (Chua). If given the chance to play again, I will never commit the same mistake."

Although he’s no longer going to get paid, Torion said he would continue to practice to stay fit "para kung pwede na akong maglaro, kundisyon pa rin ako."

At least five players, including Kenny Evans and Egay Echavez, are currently trying out with the Thunder as a possible replacement for Torion.

The Commissioner’s Office said Red Bull can tap a new player but isn’t allowed to keep more than 11 players in its active roster as a result of Torion’s suspension. point marksmanship, shooting 40 percent. A highlight of his sophomore season was Red Bull’s capturing its first-ever PBA title in the Second Conference. Last year, Torion hit at a 5.4 clip and averaged 19 minutes a game as Red Bull won a second crown.

In 11 contests so far this season, Torion averaged 9.5 points.

No doubt, Torion is a key player in Guiao’s rotation. So his loss is a big blow. There is talk that with Torion’s fate up in the air, Guiao has begun to check out available guards in the free agent market.

Torion was clearly distraught. He had tears in his eyes when he recalled how he broke the news of his suspension to wife Sandie.

"Sabi ko sa kanya, Mama, may problema ako,"
recounted Torion. "Pagkatapos kong sinabi na positive ako sa drug test, umiyak siya ng umiyak." Torion cried his eyes out last Friday when he learned the news from Red Bull officials.

For Torion, tragedy is nothing new. Before breaking into the PBA, he figured in a car accident at 3 a.m. on Taft Avenue. He rammed his Toyota Corolla into a 10-wheeler truck that refused to yield in an intersection. The car was a total wreck. Torion miraculously escaped serious injury although he has two deep scars in his face to show for the mishap.

Torion’s only major injury has been a dislocated right shoulder for which he underwent surgery last year. If he remains free of serious injuries, Torion said he’d like to play four or five more seasons.

Torion said he idolizes Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson whose jersey number 3 he wears proudly. Like Iverson, he’s self-confident. Although Red Bull has a deep cast of crack guards, Torion said he’s not insecure–like Iverson, he believes in himself. On TV, Torion said he studies Iverson’s moves, how he creates situations, how he dribbles, how he shoots. He recently signed a contract to endorse Iverson’s shoe brand Reebok.

With his suspension, Torion said he’s become a target of scorn. "Parang addict ang tingin sa akin ng mga fans," he lamented. "Sobra naman ‘yun. Sana maintindihan nila ang aking sitwasyon. Nagkamali ako. Inaamin ko. One time lang akong gumamit and I regret it."

Torion said he would’ve liked to play for Red Bull in a Bohol game on May 10 because his parents trace their roots to Talibon and he has lots of relatives in the province.

Torion dismissed speculation that he doesn’t seem to tire in a game because of drugs. He described his incredible stamina as "native." Torion said he worked hard to build his resistance–from when he was 13, running up and down the beaches–weighed down by sandbags strapped to his waist and ankles–in his depressed hometown of Lo-oc in Argao, Cebu.

Torion said the day after he learned of his suspension, he had a tearful one-on-one talk with Guiao at a Red Bull practice in the RFM Gym and told his best friend, teammate Junthy Valenzuela, how sorry he is. He couldn’t face his other teammates because of shame and went home early.

Torion finished a one-year course in computer programming and only a semester of commerce at Salazar Institute in Cebu. But while he failed to earn a degree, Torion said he realizes the value of a good education. He wants his four children to earn the degree he never got. His oldest Barbara Tracy, 8, is entering Grade 2 at St. Benildo Elementary near the Marcos Highway and Jamella, 3, is enrolling in kindergarten next schoolyear.

Because he is the breadwinner of his immediate and extended families, Torion hardly has enough left in his salary for non-essential expenses. He doesn’t go out on dates with his wife and they prefer to go malling with the children. Last Valentine’s Day, Torion celebrated with his wife at home. "Simpleng tao lang kami," he said. "Ang mahalaga sa amin ay hindi yung regalo kundi ang aming pagmamahalan."

When his playing days are over, Torion said he’ll probably get involved in fishing in Cebu. Fishing was his late father’s livelihood.

His advice for aspiring pros? "Huwag pabayaan ang pagaaral," he said. "Magtiyaga sa practice. Matulog ng maaga, disiplina sa sarili. At huwag na huwag gumamit ng bawal na droga."

Torion said he foresees a bright future for Red Bull. "Unexpected ang magandang performance ng mga bagong players like Rico (Villanueva) and Rysal (Castro)–madali nilang natutunan ang sistema ni coach Yeng," he explained. "Sa point guard, mahigpit ang competition sa PBA. Malaki ang respeto ko kina Johnny (Abarrientos), Olsen (Racela) at Bal (David). Si Jimmy (Alapag), mahirap pigilin sa isolation at si Mike (Cortez), magaling bumasa ng laro."

Torion said if given the chance to return to the PBA, he promised to rise to the challenge of being reborn. He is prepared to suffer the consequences of his moment of indiscretion. But he hopes that since he isn’t an addict, that he used shabu only once in his life, and that he is remorseful, the PBA may eventually consider to reactivate him for humanitarian reasons after an agonizing exile.

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