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SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star
Welcome back, JB
Justin Brownlee
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Justin Brownlee has returned home to his adopted country after a four-month wait in Los Angeles wondering when FIBA would hand out its decision on his suspension for testing positive in a drug test after the Asian Games final in Hangzhou last October. It wasn’t a performance-enhancing drug (PED) that Brownlee took but a cannabis compound that showed up in his urinalysis. In the NBA, cannabis isn’t a prohibited substance. But in the Asian Games, it is.

An athlete who tests positive for a banned substance is given a penalty of up to two years. But that would be for a PED. NBA player Jordan Bell tested positive for cannabis after playing four games in the FIBA World Cup Americas qualifiers and was slapped a three-month suspension that ended last August 23. Another athlete was dealt a one-month suspension after providing evidence that a doctor prescribed cannabis for medicinal purposes.

SBP president Al Panlilio said the federation was in constant communication with FIBA regarding Brownlee’s case. There appeared to be a delay in issuing FIBA’s decision because the Asian Games are under the supervision of the Lausanne-based International Testing Agency (ITA). FIBA employs World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited labs while ITA is an IOC initiative to create a unified anti-doping program.

Two samples were extracted from Brownlee and the first produced the positive finding. Brownlee could’ve contested it and asked for an analysis of the second sample but if it also turned out a positive result, the penalty would be severe. So upon SBP’s advice, Brownlee held back and when informed of the positive result last November 9, he signed a provisional or voluntary suspension even without a FIBA decision. “Justin committed in writing that he will refrain from play even if not yet suspended,” revealed Panlilio. 

As expected, FIBA handed down a three-month suspension and notified SBP last week. But because of Brownlee’s voluntary action, the suspension was made retroactive to when he received notice of the positive finding or last November 9. The suspension, therefore, will end on Friday, February 9.

Brownlee arrived in Manila this morning (Tuesday) and will report for Gilas practice on February 15.

The long wait could be a blessing in disguise as the rest gave Brownlee more time to recover from his foot injury. Will Brownlee be in tip-top shape for the coming FIBA Asia Cup qualifying window? Two games are scheduled, one against Hong Kong at the Tsuen Wan Sports Centre on February 22 and the other against Chinese-Taipei, likely to be reinforced by Jeremy Lin, at home on February 25. Brownlee’s presence alone will be a huge boost for Gilas.

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