Ginebra look for new import to avoid courting Fiba ire or risking win forfeiture
As Barangay Ginebra looks for a stop-gap import to replace Justin Brownlee, the team will leave it up to its import to decide on whether to contest his flunked drug test in the Asian Games and have his other sample tested.
If it were up to team governor Alfrancis Chua, though, that B-sample would remain sealed.
“For me, if … I contested your accusation [despite the] strong evidence, the punishment could be much more severe. That’s the way I think,” Chua said on Tuesday afternoon during the PBA’s (Philippine Basketball Association) press conference for its 48th season.
Chua said it would be moot to have the B-sample tested—an option given to those who feel their positive test was a result of a lab mistake—because testers would only be dipping into the same urine specimen. The risk of the same positive result is high and could lead to an even stiffer penalty.
But Chua said the decision inevitably is up to Brownlee, who is reportedly in the process of gathering medical documents to show that the positive test was a result of medication he was prescribed while he was dealing with ankle problems that eventually required surgery. Brownlee reportedly has until Oct. 19 to decide on whether he will invoke his right to have his B-sample tested.
“It’s up to him. We’re behind Justin. This is too personal. We also have to respect what he wants,” Chua said. “We’re giving him feedback to help him out.”
For now, Barangay Ginebra is moving on to decisions within its control—like getting a new import for the team, which will be defending its Commissioner’s Cup crown and kicking off its bid against Converge on Nov. 17.
Chua said the decision to sit Brownlee out was made so the team will not risk the ire of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) and the possibility of its wins being voided by a Brownlee suspension.
“If you ask me, if for example we decide to play Justin, those investigating his case might misconstrue it, right? It would just make things worse. And it will hurt Ginebra even more,” he said.
“For example. we go 3-0 (in the Commissioner’s Cup), and then they rule him out ineligible. We risk forfeiting those (wins). So we’re just going to go with the flow.”
Talked to JB
Chua said he has already talked to Brownlee about the decision.
“I told Justin [we’ll be left] hanging [if we wait for the investigation to play out], and I hope you understand we’re looking [for someone],” he said, adding that the replacement import will only suit up for as long as Brownlee’s issue is unresolved.
Once a resolution is reached, Chua said Brownlee will suit up as soon as he is permitted to do so, to also allow the well-loved import to bask in well-deserved adoration of the Filipino fans.
“The Philippines would like to see him play again in the PBA so [the fans] can applaud him for giving it his all for the country,” Chua said.
For the rest of things beyond the control of Ginebra and Brownlee, all team officials can do is sit and wait.
“We’re just going to wait what [the International Testing Agency, or ITA] tells the [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, or SBP]. As of now, we are wait-and-see on what to do with Brownlee,” said Chua, the San Miguel sports director who served as the team manager for the gold-winning Asian Game squad.
Brownlee was flagged by the ITA and has been put on a provisional suspension for testing positive for Carboxy-THC, which is on the list of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances. The national federation has said the substance may have entered Brownlee’s system through pain medications for his ankle problems.
The maximum suspension that could be slapped on the 35-year-old Brownlee is two years, but the SBP and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) are hoping they could drag that length down to a month at best through appeals. The POC has said it is willing to take its appeal as high as the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“I just keep on telling them to understand that tests like this happen. Just because we go through something like this, [it doesn’t mean] we’re going to start pointing fingers,” Chua said. “By [accepting whatever happens], we’ll become stronger.”