MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) In what may be a tremendous blow to Philippine basketball, NLEX rookie Kiefer Ravena has been suspended by FIBA for 18 months after he shockingly tested positive for three banned substances.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), in a hastily called press conference on Monday evening, announced that they had received a formal communication from FIBA informing them that Ravena had failed a drug test conducted on February 25, 2018 – following Gilas Pilipinas's game against Japan at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ravena played well in that game, scoring 13 points with two rebounds and five assists off the bench, in what turned out to be an 89-84 triumph for the Philippines.
He went through a drug test immediately after the game, and on March 19, the SBP was informed that Ravena had tested positive for three substances that are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The substances are as follows: Higenamine, 1,3-Dimethylbutylamine, and 4-Methylhexan-2-amine.
Because of this, Ravena has been declared ineligible to play for 18 months – from February 25, 2018, to August 24, 2019.
It was the culmination of a roller-coaster 24-hours for Ravena, who had been pulled out from the Visayas leg of the 2018 PBA All-Star Week in Iloilo City on Sunday afternoon. PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial announced that Ravena would miss the game just a few hours before tip-off, sending fans into a frenzy of speculation.
"I am in front of you guys to take full responsibility for my actions, despite how painful and dreadful it is," a somber Ravena said.
The positive drug test stemmed from a pre-workout drink called "DUST," which Ravena took ahead of their game against Japan.
It was not his usual pre-workout drink of choice, but Ravena had ran out of the drink that he typically uses. He was recommended to buy "DUST," not knowing that it contained banned substances.
"I regret taking this pre-workout drink without analyzing or taking extra time to research its ingredients," said Ravena.
"DUST" is not illegal in the Philippines, according to Atty. Aga Francisco of the SBP. Indeed, "you can buy it over the counter anywhere."
"So it's not illegal," Francisco added. "You take it, you buy it, you go to the gym."
"It's over the counter, walang prescription, you can buy it," said SBP president Al Panlilio. "It's up to the player to assess whether it's banned or not. Ignorance is not an excuse."
Indeed, even FIBA acknowledged that Ravena committed an "honest mistake" in ingesting the pre-workout drink.
But regardless of his intentions, the results still showed that Ravena failed a drug test and thus must be sanctioned. It is a punishment that the player, along with SBP, fully accepted.
"I am a responsible man, and I will face the consequences, no matter how painful and life changing," said Ravena.
"We agreed to make this an advocacy, and for me to be an instrument for the education of the Filipino athlete," he added.
"The SBP is part of an international federation, which is FIBA. There are rules, and we should abide by the rules of the entity that we're a member of," said Panlilio. "If we do something wrong, we should do the right thing. And the right thing is to follow the ruling that FIBA has given to us."
With the 18-month suspension, Ravena is set to miss the rest of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, which resumes in late June. Ravena is averaging 7.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game for Gilas Pilipinas in the past two qualifying windows.
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