Asian Games

Doping drama: What happens next to Justin Brownlee, Gilas Pilipinas?

Delfin Dioquino

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Doping drama: What happens next to Justin Brownlee, Gilas Pilipinas?

SHOT. Justin Brownlee in action for Gilas Pilipinas against China in the 19th Asian Games.

PSC-POC Media Pool

Justin Brownlee, the hero of Gilas Pilipinas' celebrated title run in the Asian Games, faces a tough test in his career after he tested positive for a banned substance

MANILA, Philippines – Justin Brownlee further embellished his decorated career by leading Gilas Pilipinas to its first Asian Games crown in over six decades.

The naturalized player put the team on his back as the Philippines ruled the men’s basketball competition of the continental tiff, dethroning China in the semifinals and outlasting Jordan in the championship game.

Brownlee, however, now faces a tough test in his career after he tested positive for a banned substance.

How did Brownlee perform in the Asian Games?

Brownlee showed the way for the Philippines in scoring, averaging a team-best 23.4 points in seven games as they went 6-1 in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Except for his nine-point outing in an 80-41 demolition of Qatar in the qualification to the quarterfinals, Brownlee scored at least 20 points in all the other games and breached the 30-point plateau twice.

The beloved Barangay Ginebra import erupted for a tournament-best 36 points in an 84-83 escape against Iran in the quarterfinals, then dropped 33 points in a miraculous 77-76 comeback win over China in the semifinals, erupting for 17 points in the fourth quarter to steer the Nationals to the title round after a 33-year wait.

The stunning result also dethroned China, marking only the third time in Asian Games history the Chinese failed to reach the men’s basketball finale.

In the title showdown, Brownlee put up 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in a 70-60 win over Jordan as the Philippines crowned itself the Asian Games king for the first time since 1962.

His remarkable performance prompted fans to hail Brownlee a “national hero.”

Even Gilas Pilipinas team manager and San Miguel sports director Alfrancis Chua feels Brownlee deserves to represent the country as the first-choice naturalized player in future tournaments.

What happens to Brownlee after his positive test?

Jubilation turned into confusion when the International Testing Agency (ITA) announced late Thursday, October 12, that Brownlee failed an “in-competition anti-doping test” done after the final match.

Brownlee tested positive for Carboxy-THC, a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency that is linked to cannabis use.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said it is possible that Brownlee may have taken medication that contained the banned substance as he recovered from surgery.

Brownlee underwent operation in August to remove bone spurs in his foot.

According to the ITA, Brownlee has the right to request the analysis of his B-sample, which will be used to confirm or invalidate his positive A-sample.

Brownlee faces a potential two-year suspension if his B-sample also returns a positive result.

Tolentino, though, said the suspension can be lowered to one to three months if Brownlee and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) can successfully appeal his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Based on the ITA website, “some of the cases may not be final and may be in dispute” before the CAS.

The ITA added the sanctions applicable under the authority Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) relate to this edition of the Asian Games exclusively, with the international federation of the concerned athlete in charge of further sanctions.

FIBA is the governing body for basketball.

Does this mean Gilas Pilipinas loses the gold medal?

The POC said the Asian Games title remains with the Philippines, based on rules on team sports.

Under Article 11.2 of the OCA Anti-Doping Rules, the CAS Anti-Doping Division shall impose an appropriate sanction if more than two members of a team are found to have violated an anti-doping rule.

Sanctions include loss of points or disqualification.

Tolentino said the entire Gilas Pilipinas team got tested together with all of the players from final opponent Jordan.

Jordan shooting guard Sami Bzai also failed the test as he returned a positive result for dehydrochloromethyl-testosterone metabolite, a banned steroid.

A total of 10 athletes have tested positive for banned substances in the Asian Games, including Filipino cyclist Ariana Evangalista, who is provisionally suspended for erythropoietin, a performance-enhancing drug.

Can Brownlee still play?

Brownlee got tapped by Barangay Ginebra for another tour of duty in the PBA as its import for the upcoming season that tips off on November 5.

The three-time PBA Best Import also made a strong case for Gilas Pilipinas’ lone naturalized player spot as it returns to action in the opening window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in February.

His playing status, though, remains uncertain.

The SBP has yet to publicly address the issue, while PBA commissioner Willie Marcial refused to comment on the matter. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.