The Asian Games (Asiad) gold medal won by Gilas Pilipinas on Oct. 6, which ended the country’s 61-year wait to regain basketball supremacy in the continental league, will stay in Philippine hands.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino is making the assurance that basketball-crazy Filipinos have nothing to worry about.
“There’s no way that we will be stripped of that,” Tolentino told the Inquirer over the phone Friday as he was besieged by calls from the media following news that Gilas ace Justin Brownlee had failed a drug test conducted by the league held in Hangzhou, China.
“Of course, we will still appeal the International Testing Agency (ITA) findings,” added Tolentino, who is also mayor of Tagaytay City. “We have until Oct. 19 to do that and we will do everything we can to prove that (Brownlee) didn’t cheat.”
Reports came out that the urine sample from Brownlee was taken on Oct. 7, a day after the gold medal match with Jordan which the Filipinos eventually won, 70-60.
Team Philippines beat host China in the semifinals, 77-76, the second time in just 32 days that the Chinese—who have had a stranglehold of the Asian region in basketball for decades—lost to the Filipinos. The second was marked by a 20-point drubbing in the consolation round of the Fiba World Cup in Manila, where Filipino-American NBA star Jordan Clarkson led Gilas.
At least 3 to be disqualified
Brownlee’s urine was found to contain traces of the banned substance carboxy-THC, which is linked to cannabis use.
He became the second member of the PH delegation to test positive, with the first being mountain biker Ariana Evangelista, who is also in the process of contesting the result with the help of the POC.
“The athlete (Brownlee) has been informed of the case. He has the right to request the analysis of the ‘B’ samples,” said a statement issued by the ITA.
Tolentino made that bold statement as he expressed confidence that no more than one Gilas player would yield a positive result. Under the rules of the Olympic Council of Asia, particularly for team sports, at least three players should be found in violation of drug-use rules for their country to be disqualified or—in Gilas’ case—stripped of the gold medal.
“Since every player on the team has been tested already, and only one had come out positive, there’s no way that two more will come out with positive results for us to be stripped (of the gold medal),” Tolentino said. “All their results have come out on the same day and for them to find more, mahirap na yata gawin ’yun (it already seems difficult to do that).”
Tolentino said the gold medal winners were all tested in Hangzhou.
Annie Ramirez, the jiu jitsu ace who contributed one of the four gold medals the Philippines won in the 19th Asiad, took more than two hours after her title match to come up with a urine sample.
“That’s why we know that all of our (Gilas) players have been tested already,” he said. “Because we all waited for them to come up with their urine samples.”
2-year suspension, if . . .
The other basketball finalist, Jordan, was also tested after winning its semifinal match against Chinese Taipei, with traces of a performance-enhancing steroid found on guard Sam Bzai. The Jordanian ace, like Brownlee, also has the right to contest the finding by using his “B” sample.
Should Brownlee, who was naturalized earlier in the year and came up with dominant performances in the knockout stages—the 17-point, fourth quarter explosion against the Chinese the biggest of them all—does end up violating the drug rule after testing his “B” sample, the worst thing that can happen to him is be suspended for the next two years.
The rules of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), which have many similarities with that of the world-governing Fiba, also do not strip teams of wins or titles in cases of drug violation. Players in the PBA, though, are fined heavily and suspended lengthily, like in the case of Jimwell Torion of the defunct Red Bull.
Fiba also did not strip or disqualify the Philippines of any wins when it found Kiefer Ravena positive of a performance-enhancing substance he ingested in a workout drink during the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Australia.
Ravena was suspended for 18 months by Fiba from representing the Philippines internationally. Even his stint with then-PBA mother team, NLEx, was put on hold for that stretch. INQ