By now, most of us have read about Kiefer Ravena’s 18-month suspension from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Basketball standout Ravena unknowingly ingested substances that are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The substances taken by Ravena are not illegal drugs like marijuana or cocaine, but ingredients found in a sports drink that may be bought over the counter. An honest mistake made by the cager, who says that he “takes full responsibility for his actions.”
Ravena’s case calls to mind what happened to tennis star Maria Sharapova, who said nearly the exact same words two years ago. (“I take full responsibility for it. I made a huge mistake.”) Sharapova was taking the drug called meldonium for medical purposes that include treating an irregular heartbeat, rather than for performance enhancement. She had been taking the drug for a month after it became prohibited on January 2016.
The court initially banned Sharapova for two years, only reducing the sentence to 15 months with the explanation: “Under no circumstances, therefore, can the player be considered to be an ‘intentional doper’.”
Unintentional doping can be determined upon further analysis and investigation, such as whether the regulation body finds poor labeling of the dietary supplement being taken by the athlete, product contamination, or the substance was inhaled accidentally, taking into account the athlete’s statement as well.
Another Chance to Get It Right
One of the highest-paid female athletes in the world, Sharapova documented her experiences—including the aftermath of failing a drug test—into a book titled, Unstoppable: My Life So Far. After what happened to Ravena, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has stated that it would undertake an information campaign to make athletes more aware of the banned substances they must avoid. Ravena has voluntarily become part of the initiative.
Cautionary Tales from Intentional Dopers
On one hand are athletes who unknowingly take banned substances. Such was the case of basketball center Joakim Noah in 2017. On the other are those who consciously saw their lives spiraling downward due to illegal drugs.
The NBA has had its share of players with drug problems. If you ever watched Shawn Kemp in the early ’90s, you would have wondered how a power-dunker like him could have had his career go down the drain. It was because of cocaine, identified by another once-effective player named Lamar Odom as his drug of choice. Odom has described his nightmarish drug experience in a first-person account in the Player’s Tribune website.
In his book, Drive, Larry Bird wondered why any young player would knowingly take drugs and imperil his life. For the sake of the youth, more information dissemination about controlled substances is exactly what the doctor ordered.