Nothin' but Net: NBA drug policy barely adequate

According to NBA Commissioner David Stern, there are well over 100 substances on the league's banned substance list.

In recent memory, very few players have been suspended by the league for drug infractions. That includes both recreational drugs and performance-enhancing ones.

The current climate of professional sports is fogged by performance-enhancing drugs. It's a constant concern in football, a huge problem in baseball and even sports like cycling are not immune from the stigma PEDs bring.

The NBA touts its drug policy and notes how few players get suspended. The league has been relatively free from the stink of these drugs.


Baseball and football are sports where strength is more of a need than basketball. Sure, brute strength is an asset in basketball, but not nearly in the way it takes to tackle a running back, or hit home runs.

However, that should not rule out the notion that PEDs are just steroids that cause athletes to swell like vein-filled grapes. Performance-enhancing drugs do just that - enhance performance. They aid in running and jumping, two pretty powerful cornerstones of Dr. James Naismith's vision. PEDs can cut down recovery time after injury.

Yet, the NBA has avoided falling into PED HELL.

"All you can do is have a program, which we have, test players six times a year, twice during the offseason," Commissioner David Stern replied when asked about PEDs in Q & A on NBA TV and "You do unannounced testing and you send the results, which are looking for the 100 some odd drugs that are on a banned list put together by a group of experts hired by us and the players' association.

"I guess we've been lucky."


Luck is finding a $5 bill in your shorts.

The NBA has not done everything it can to eliminate PEDs from the sport.

The tests commissioner Stern referred to are urine tests, not blood tests, which is the most effective way to root out Human Growth Hormone use.

Blood testing has supposedly been on the agenda for some time, but nothing has been done. Now, Stern believes that will change, shortly, as he said in a radio interview in February.

"We watch what's going on in baseball, we watch the negotiations that are going on with football, and it is my expectation that by next season (we) will be doing blood testing for HGH," Stern told WCCO radio in Minnesota. "Our players have been terrific. They lead this in some ways, saying, 'We do not want to have anything less than the best.'"

That has become an important factor - the union's agreement. There has been a substantial amount of upheaval in the players' association recently, but Chris Paul's election as union president should make blood testing a fairly seamless process.

(Paul, and every other NBA player who participated in the Olympics or international competition, was subjected to blood testing for HGH. So, that should probably dismiss any notion that the best player in the league, who is built like an oak tree on wheels, is anything but clean. He was in London one summer ago.)

So leadership appears headed toward the HGH testing. That is a good start, considering the World Anti-Doping Agency gave the NBA poor grades.

Remember too, it doesn't appear at face value, the NBA has a PED problem. But this is business and it's of paramount importance to protect the integrity of your sport.

The NBA has not been free from that and if you don't recall, ask Tim Donaghy.

With image in mind, it seemed somewhat startling that the NBA didn't take the Biogenesis scandal more seriously. Reports indicated that league players were on the same list that doomed Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and my fantasy baseball team.

Incoming commissioner Adam Silver dismissed any link to Biogenesis in a report by the New York Post earlier in August.

To be fair, the NBA has suspended players recently. Hedo Turkoglu got 20 games during the season for a PED and the Portland Trail Blazers Terrel Harris got five games, which is consistent with a third failed marijuana test.

The policy does seem to work and those suspensions, and a few others, bare that out. Again, integrity is at stake. When that's the case, proactive measures should be the norm and that means taking all threats seriously.

And the league can.

The drug-testing policy agreed to by both the NBA and players' association has a "reasonable cause" testing provision in it which allows for testing if the "Players Association or NBA has information that gives it reasonable cause to believe that a player is engaged in the use, possession, or distribution of a Prohibited Substance."

The NBA is so close to having a comprehensive drug policy. The union is on board, which took baseball a while, so make blood testing happen. Get up to code with WADA.

Protect the integrity of Dr. Naismith.


- Wonder if Lamar Odom knows about the "reasonable cause" provision.

- Truthfully, I don't want anything to do with the Odom story until something is confirmed on the record. TMZ actually gets a lot right and Jeff Schwartz, Odom's agent, didn't refute drug claims in his statement to ESPN. He just refuted the claim that Odom's wife, Khloe Kardashian, didn't know where Odom is/was. This is a potentially ugly story. Let's sort it out, get confirmation, then go from there.

- Tracy McGrady was a very, very good, but never great player in the NBA. Is he a Hall of Famer? For the best eight seasons of his career, he averaged 26.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 5.5 apg. He went to seven All-Star games during that time, won two scoring titles, was on one of the three All-NBA teams seven times and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times. That's enough for me.

- Movie moment - Watched "Clear History" on HBO this past week. It's the Larry David movie, which is basically a long, dull episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with Larry named Rolly. It's a decent way to waste 90 minutes, but you won't want to watch it again. Pretty, pretty, pretty disappointing.

- TV moment - HBO Go has changed my life. Let's embrace that I'm at the party, not how late I am to it. Re-watching every episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" at the moment. The Internet is really something.