The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Saturday began probing into the school’s basketball team’s alleged health protocols violations, which the government sports agency called an act of “endangering the lives of [its] players.”
“The PSC at this point expresses its concern for the safety of the athletes. Above all considerations at this time, the safety of the athletes must always be paramount,” the PSC, which was tasked by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) with monitoring amateur sports, said in a statement released to media on Saturday.
UST is also launching its own investigation on the alleged practices by the Tigers in a “bubble environment” in coach Aldin Ayo’s hometown in Sorsogon province. The IATF has not okayed training of any form for amateur squads or players.
According to a source belonging to a collegial body in UST that should have known any planned team activity, the Tigers’ training in Sorsogon was a rogue decision by the team’s coaching staff that the school wasn’t made aware of. This was corroborated by another independent source who revealed Ayo was not given any permission at all to hold team practices anywhere.
The UST source also told the Inquirer that upon initial investigation, it looks as if the Tigers were in Sorsogon as early as May.
Ayo could not be reached for comment at press time.
PSC Chair William “Butch” Ramirez told the Inquirer “[The PSC wants] deeper information [on] why [UST was] violating the medical protocols [and] endangering the lives of [its] players.”
The PSC, represented by the agency’s national training director Marc Velasco sat with Games and Amusements Board (GAB) Chair Abraham Mitra, lawyer and UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag, Department of Health representative Rodley Carza and UAAP Season 83 president and La Salle athletic director Nonong Calanog to discuss the Tigers’ potential violation.
Still at a loss
UST was invited to the meeting but declined to attend.
The Tigers’ practices came to light when former UST skipper CJ Cansino bolted UST for the University of the Philippines after being cut from the team due to “defiance of authority.”
“I still don’t know what the main reason is,” Cansino said in Filipino during a live interview with sports show “The Chasedown.” “Up to this point, I’m still waiting for a statement from coach, from UST, regarding the reason for my swift removal.”
He said that such an abrupt decision was so uncharacteristic of Ayo, considering his relationship with the mentor.
“We’re OK. He’s like my father, which is why I really could not understand why I was cut from that team that quickly,” added Cansino.
Reports said Cansino wanted to leave the Sorsogon practice to visit his family, but wasn’t allowed to do so.
That revelation put UST’s unauthorized practice out in the open and later, the PSC was able to obtain undated video clips showing the team in training in a certain ABC Ideas Gymnasium. A facility of the same name is situated in Sorsogon, where the team has routinely held offseason training.
With UST absent in Saturday’s initial meeting, the group probing the alleged violation of UST will reconvene on Wednesday to further shed light on the matter.
“We were informed that the University concerned is now conducting their own investigation and that UAAP shall share information in the following days,” the PSC said in its statement.
“The PSC, recognizes the UAAP as the mother organization of the concerned team and trusts that proper actions shall be done on this matter.”
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