The fight for Justin Brownlee is on.
Ranking basketball executives vow to guide and protect the embattled naturalized player after testing positive for banned substance in the aftermath of Gilas Pilipinas’ historic conquest in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
In a message to Daily Tribune, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio said they are standing by the 35-year-old Brownlee as he faces the biggest and most challenging battle of his basketball career.
Brownlee has been in the eye of the storm after testing positive for Carboxy-THC, a substance that is connected with the use of cannabis.
The Lausanne-based International Testing Agency performed the anti-doping control on 7 October, a day after Brownlee powered Gilas Pilipinas to a 70-60 victory over Jordan to win the country’s first Asian Games gold medal in 61 years.
The positive result was released last Friday and the United States-born Brownlee has a choice of either to contest the result by having his B-sample undergo doping test or lobby for the reduction of the possible 24-month suspension set to be imposed by the International Basketball Federation.
Should Brownlee get suspended, he will not be allowed to play in all FIBA-sanctioned tournaments, including the Philippine Basketball Association.
The PBA, however, is expected to carry out the penalty, similar to what it did when Kiefer Ravena tested positive for a banned substance in 2018 that led to an 18-month suspension.
Panlilio, however, stressed that they will not abandon Brownlee, a beloved import who led Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to six PBA titles with three Best Import honors.
“That’s not our (decision) but for Justin to decide,” said Panlilio when asked if they will lodge an appeal before the World Anti-Doping Agency and FIBA.
“SBP will give him guidance and support needed.”
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said they will meet with Panlilio and other ranking SBP officials on Tuesday to plot their next course of action.
Marcial, who served as Gilas assistant team manager during the Asian Games, said nothing is concrete at the moment, but they have to come up with a definite action plan since it will also affect Brownlee’s participation for the Kings in the PBA, which opens on 5 November.
Ginebra, after all, is the reigning champion with Brownlee emerging as Best Import after winning his on-court battles with Bay Area Dragons reinforcements Miles Powell and Andrew Nicholson last January.
“We will have a meeting before the PBA press conference tomorrow (Tuesday),” Marcial told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation.
“We don’t know yet the next step but it’s very likely that they will file an appeal.”
In a previous interview, Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino hinted at the possibility of contesting the ITA findings.
He said Brownlee is now in the US to collate all documents that will prove his innocence. After all, cannabis is now widely used as an alternative medicine and is legal in some parts of the world, including the US and Thailand.
“We were given up until the 19th to decide if we will send Brownlee to get tested for B-sample or just send a representative in Beijing online or just waive his rights,” Tolentino said.
“Whatever happens after the 19th, the ITA will schedule the opening of the B-sample even without witnesses. If that (B-sample) turns positive, there will be a two-year suspension.”
“If that happens, then that’s the time that we file a case to the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sports) to appeal and justify.”
Tolentino said the two-year suspension will be a major blow to Brownlee.
“It’s hard if we allow the
two-year suspension,” Tolentino said.
“The decision will be forwarded to FIBA then it will be forwarded to the SBP and all FIBA-sanctioned games will be affected, including all IOC (International Olympic Committee) and OCA ( Olympic Council of Asia) games.”