Like the folks who run Major League Baseball, the NBA believes it has a strong, modern, effective anti-drug program.
Like MLB, the NBA has worked with its players association and consulted with top authorities in the field to build an exhaustive and ever-evolving list of banned substances, from marijuana to drugs of abuse to the more topical, integrity-challenging steroids, performance-enhancers and masking agents.
So with MLB embroiled in recent weeks in the investigation of and penalties to 14 players snared in that sport’s latest doping scandal – without any indication that even one of those players failed a drug test – the question for the NBA or any other league seemed obvious: How good can an anti-drug program really be if admitted violators aren’t testing positive?
The answer from NBA HQ: Pretty good, because its anti-drug program goes beyond testing.
In baseball’s probe of the Biogenesis clinic in south Florida, it took leaked documents, statements from lab founder Anthony Bosch and an associate, other sources of information and an article in the Miami New Times, an alternative news publication, to snare the PED users.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun accepted a 65-game ban on July 22. Twelve major leaguers already have acknowledged their involvement and begun suspensions of 50 games each, while Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is appealing his 211-game suspension.
The names of athletes from other sports supposedly turned up in the investigation, and NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said that he, chief compliance officer Rick Buchanan and other league executives were not aware of the involvement with Biogenesis of any NBA players.
None wanted to comment specifically on the MLB cases or their ramifications for the NBA. But the league’s anti-drug program has provisions that don’t require a failed test to intitiate the discipline process. Beyond the six random, unannounced tests during each season and offseason to which each player is subject, tests can be administered based on reasonable cause at any time.
Also, the policy allows for evidence coming from outside sources, such as Biogenesis’ trail of texts and electronic messages. A summary of the NBA’s program includes the following:
If the NBA obtains evidence of a player’s use, possession or distribution of a Prohibited Substance, it can take that evidence to a neutral arbitrator. If the arbitrator finds that the player has used or possessed a Drug of Abuse, or has distributed any Prohibited Substance, he will be dismissed and disqualified from the NBA. If the arbitrator finds that the player has used or possessed Marijuana or a SPED, such a finding is considered a violation under the Program and the player will be subject to the same penalties imposed for a positive drug test.
Silver also repeated to the New York Post last week what he and commissioner David Stern talked about after the Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas last month: The NBA is looking to implement testing for human growth hormone (HGH), in addition to the urine testing that’s conducted for approximately 160 prohibited substances on its current list. HGH is on that list and NBA players who participate in international and Olympic competition have undergone the blood testing it requires, but that provision is not yet contained in the league’s anti-drug policy.
Negotiating for that with the National Basketball Players Association – the anti-drug program is “jointly maintained and administered” by the NBA and the union – currently is on hold while the NBPA attends to other business. A new president to succeed Derek Fisher in the top agenda item at the the NBPA summer meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, and the search for a new executive director to replace Billy Hunter could last through the end of 2013.
Some might consider it luck, and a statement on the early types of steroids and their effects, that the culture of PEDs has not taken hold in the NBA as it has in some other sports.
Now at least – much as MLB has seen in the wake of its latest scandal – the NBA is optimistic that the majority of its players see them as cheating and want to deter their use.