Was Kiefer Ravena’s ban from the PBA necessary?

Many had already accepted that Kiefer Ravena was going to be banned from international play for 18 months due to his unfortunate doping controversy.

What people didn’t expect was Ravena being banned from participating in all basketball leagues and all basketball-related activities as well.

But the question remains: Is the subsequent ban from the PBA and all other basketball-related activities necessary?

To put it bluntly: no.

The decision is uncalled for. But as to every controversy, not everything is black and white. While we should all understand the seriousness of the matter and learn from the incident, we should also practice critical thinking when it comes to every situation.

Yes, it was Kiefer’s fault that he did not take precaution in knowing what he was putting in his body, particularly since a lot of these workout drinks are widely known to contain those dangerous, banned substances. FIBA’s website has a section on Anti-Doping, and a part of it states that, “As an athlete, you have certain responsibilities. The Golden Rule for all players is the principle of strict liability, which implies that:

– You take full responsibility. You must take responsibility for what you ‘ingest,’ meaning what you eat and drink and anything that may enter your body. The essential rule is this: if it is in your body, you are responsible for it.

– You are responsible for knowing what substances and methods are on a prohibited list at all time.

Maria Sharapova was also banned for 15 months from tennis competitions by the International Tennis Federation in 2016 for a similar infraction, so its not like there is no recent high-profile precedent for other athletes to use as precaution.

The extent of the sanction, however, is a different matter altogether.

It is definitely understandable that FIBA, the governing body of international basketball competitions, would ban Ravena for all international competitions. The FIBA site states that “sanctions for violating anti-doping regulations may range from a reprimand to a lifetime ban. The period of ineligibility may vary depending on the type of anti-doping violation, the circumstances of an individual case, the substance, and the possible repetition of an anti-doping rule violation.” FIBA holds discretion on how to punish violators, and we should respect that. Some even say that 18 months was already a shortened sentence, and that is a welcome act from FIBA.

However, banning him from participating in the PBA, and especially in all “basketball-related activities” seems excessive. Ravena was tested within the period of FIBA World Cup qualifiers and violated rules of that competition, but he did not violate anything from the PBA. (That the PBA actually needs stricter anti-doping regulations is a different matter altogether.)

Even if the PBA is affiliated with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), which in turn is the officially recognized local basketball governing body by FIBA, the PBA should have full autonomy over how the league is run at the local level.

FIBA extending its reach to the level of the PBA – and all basketball-related activities – is a move done seemingly just to flex its muscles. Regular training, practice, and competition are the biggest foundations of an athlete’s success, and taking that away from them for a significant amount of time can have negative repercussions on their careers.

And losing Ravena, one of the fastest-rising stars in the PBA, for 18 months is also a huge blow to a league that has seen its popularity dwindle in recent years.

This is not to say that the PBA shouldn’t follow FIBA’s ruling. They absolutely should. Not doing so would risk fraying relations with FIBA, which might lead to even bigger challenges for the Philippines in participating in FIBA evemts. But then again, this dilemma presented by the situation is precisely why the extent of the ruling seems to be a power tripping move by the international organization.

For now, all we can do is to learn from the entire ordeal. Besides Kiefer, the Gilas and NLEX management should also be held accountable. These are professional institutions at the highest level of the sport, yet as it turns out, they don’t even monitor or regulate what their athletes (who serve both as their employees and product) take for their bodies. This issue should also trigger the PBA to create stricter anti-doping laws and make athletes in our country more aware about what they take for their bodies.

Life isn’t always fair, but we have no choice but to accept it and change what we can.

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