Suspended Memphis Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes is mounting a defense against a 20-game suspension handed down Friday for violation of the NBA’s drug policy, citing it as unfair. The league, however, plans to stand by its ruling under the collective bargaining agreement.
Calathes was suspended less than 24 hours before the Grizzlies started their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder for use of the drug Tamoxifen, which is one of the 140 substances banned by the NBA’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Tamoxifen is not directly a PED but a masking agent for other substances, including synthetic testosterone.
The National Basketball Players Association has the option of asking for an expedited grievance to be heard within 10 days. It remains unlikely that the process will play out before the end of the playoffs. Unlike in Major League Baseball, appealed suspensions do not result in a stay.
“[It was] an over-the-counter supplement to treat a private but common medical condition; the NBA rejected it because it doesn’t require a prescription,” attorney David Cornwell, who is representing Calathes, told ESPN.
“Our tests identified tamoxifen in a supplement Nick [used] for a legitimate medical condition and our tests confirmed that Nick did not have testosterone or any other PED in his body. Despite this irrefutable, objective scientific evidence, the NBA’s response was, ‘Oh well.’ This is indefensible because no legitimate purpose is served by suspending a man who the NBA knows was not cheating.”
NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan, who oversees the league’s drug-testing program, told ESPN the agreement on PED enforcement between the league and the players union does not allow it to consider intent. The players have a strict liability on knowing what they put in their bodies. ESPN
This sucks for the Grizzlies. Now Beno Udrih has to become part of the regular guard rotation. As Knicks’ fans already know, this is not good in a series when you have to defend Russell Westbrook. Grizzlies’ head coach David Joerger remained stubborn and played a surprisingly short rotation in their Game 1 loss to the Thunder. The loss of Calathes does not determine how well the Grizzlies play against the Thunder, but they need all of the offensive consistency they can get.
Regarding PEDs, there’s a really simple solution to all of this and I’ll explain it in a column sometime fairly soon. No professional sports should ever have this issue. It’s an embarrassment but one that does not need to be complicated. I’ll cover than angle elsewhere. – AL