Agnes Cruz • Special to Arab News
Publication Date: 
Fri, 2003-07-25 03:00

MANILA, 25 July 2003 — Batang Red Bull’s controversial point guard Jimwell Torion can flash his brilliance once again on the hardcourt.

This came after the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) lifted the ban on Torion who earlier tested positive for taking illegal drugs.

League Commissioner Noli Eala said the prized cager was declared eligible to play in the upcoming PBA Asian Invitational Championships after complying with the pro league’s guidelines and ‘showing good conduct during the period of his suspension.’

“We’ve evaluated the case of Jimwell and have also received a copy of his appeal for reinstatement. Just yesterday, the board has agreed to reinstate Jimwell, thus declaring him fit to play in the Asian Invitational this July 27. We’re also happy with his progress and the way he handled his personal problems. Now he can settle down in his career and prove to all that he can be a good role model to follow.”

Eala, however, denied reports of a ‘mass reinstatement’ of drug offenders despite earlier criticisms over the league’s handling of urine samples that led to the banishment of some of the PBA’s top players.

He said unless the drug offenders follow guidelines, there is no way the indefinite suspensions would be lifted.

Eala said other suspended PBA cagers should abide by the PBA rules on drug use to hasten their reinstatement.

“There is no truth to the rumors that there will be a mass reinstatement. The PBA will always take things on a case-to-case basis. So far, among the drug offenders and aside from Jimwell, only Noli (Locsin) has submitted to me some form of a certificate that he underwent some kind of psychiatric treatment,” he said. Eala said despite the strict guidelines, the PBA is looking at giving a clean slate on all drug offenders next season. “Unlike in the NBA wherein if you’re caught using drugs, and then get caught again for a second time, you can be banned for life. Here, we can always take a compassionate posture on them. We’re considering giving these players a clean slate next season.

“However, they must show to me first that they abide by the rules set by the league and show me as well a medical certificate. Of course, we’re not just gonna reinstate them that easily,” he said.

A total of 10 has tested positive for illegal drugs in the league’s continuing campaign to rid the country’s most popular sport of the drug menace. The drug offenders include a second-time offender and two highly-paid superstars — one of whom the unlikeliest person to use drugs. Aside from Torion, Talk ‘N’ Text’s Asi Taulava, San Miguel center Dorian Pe?a — who had been slapped a two-game suspension for marijuana use in the preseason — Red Bull star Davonn Harp, Barangay Ginebra forward Jun Limpot, Talk ‘N’ Text backups Noli Locsin, Angelo David and Norman Gonzales, and FedEx slotman Ryan Bernardo all failed the test, according to PBA Commissioner Noli Eala. Three team utility men along with FedEx physical therapist Kenneth Dichoso also failed the drug test. Taulava and Pe?a, who tested positive for traces of marijuana, were suspended for two games while Torion, Gonzalez and Crisano, who tested positive for higher-grade substances, got indefinite suspension.

The biggest surprise in the catch is Ginebra star Limpot who said he had never seen shabu before.

Limpot, whose lifestyle is starkly contrasted to the issue that now hounds him, said he had never touched drugs and pointed to a prescribed medicine for sinus and cough as possibly the culprit behind his positive test for a prohibited drug last May 20.

The veteran slotman said he started taking Rhinofront on the advice of his doctor last May 13 and finished his medication on May 20. His urine sample yielded traces of a substance similar to substances found in illegal drugs. Taulava and Pe?a were tested positive for drug use just before the PBA’s 29th season opened last March.

Both Fil-foreign cagers have since been undergoing tests before the each game, aside from getting counseled.

The 6-foot-8 Taulava and the 6-foot-7 Pe?a sat out the first two games of the season and were fined an undetermined amount both by the PBA and their respective teams.

Pe?a contested the drug test results.

After being informed of the positive result of his drug test by the PBA, Harp took an independent test with the New World Laboratory in Quezon City, which produced negative result.

The power-playing Red Bull slotman said that he has been taking medication even a week before the Thunder were subjected to the mandatory drug test. It was also Limpot’s explanation for his failure to pass the test.

Harp noted he is filing a formal appeal to the commissioner, hoping that his case would be reconsidered.

Just recently, Talk ‘N’ Text’s ace player Gonzales, one of the players who failed a random drug test conducted by the PBA last May, has filed a case with the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City in his bid to overturn the pro league decision suspending him for six months. At the same time, Gonzales, in the suit filed by his lawyer, Efren Hipolito, asked the court to issue a ruling allowing him to play while his case is being heard. He also wants the PBA to pay him damages worth 750,000 pesos.

Gonzales, a 6-foot-3 former national cager who was enjoying his finest season in the PBA, was subjected to a random drug test recently and results released showed he failed it to become the third player to be suspended indefinitely by the PBA. He was also ordered to undergo a six-month rehabilitation. A star out of San Beda College, Gonzales was found positive for methamphitamine hydrochloride or shabu.

PBA Commissioner Noli Eala, reacting to the suit, said he was not surprised but added it’s unfortunate that Gonzales went to court while the pro league was reviewing his case. ‘It’s an unfortunate development, especially because we have been given a certification by Talk ‘N’ Text that he’s undergoing detoxification,’ Eala said. “We are ready to answer all allegations. In fact, we’re filing a motion to dismiss. We’re ready.”

Gonzales, whose contract is expiring at the end of the year, was one of the five players who tested positive for a banned substance in random drug tests conducted by the league in the off-season and early in the All-Filipino Cup. Days after it was announced that he had tested positive and suspended for six months, he threatened to go to court.

“I will not talk about the merits of this case because it’s already in court. But this I must say, the PBA has ways of dealing with this kind,” said Eala sternly.

Gonzales and his legal counsel contend that the league’s mandatory drug tests go against the constitutional rights of players against self-incrimination.

It marked the first time in the 29-year history of Asia’s first professional cage league that a player had hauled the PBA to court — a move commissioners before Eala have frowned at in the past.

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