Kiefer Ravena was having a historic season as a rookie in the Philippine Basketball Association when he was suspended for more than a year of professional play after he failed a drug test conducted in February 2018.
Despite the blow to his young career, fans and fellow players continue to support him.
How “The Phenom” was grounded
The suspension was announced after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas revealed they received a letter from the International Basketball Federation detailing how the rookie sensation tested positive for three substances banned by the World-Anti Doping Agency.
Ravena, a national team member who was also named to the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers squad, is banned from participating in any FIBA-accredited tournament until August next year.
The culprit was not recreational drugs but a pre-workout drink he consumed in February.
Blackstone Labs’ “Dust,” a pre-workout drink usually consumed by bodybuilders, contains three substances known to improve breathing, performance, and weight loss.
Ravena has since apologized for his lapse, claiming he was unaware the drink contained the banned substances.
Despite the suspension, he has been defended by his fans, who believe Ravena was truthful when he claimed to be unaware of the pre-workout drink’s ingredients.
Bata pa si Kiefer Ravena magaling na yan. Well scouted yan even abroad. He did not became good overnight. I believe that this is really just an honest mistake. You cannot put a good man down. @kieferravena is not defined by just 1 or 2 games, his legacy speaks for itself.
— Patrick Encarnacion (@PatEncarnacion) May 28, 2018
Among those who voiced support was his collegiate rival, Jeron Teng, now also a rookie playing for the Alaska Aces.
— Jeron Teng (@jeronteng) May 28, 2018
PBA commentator Sev Sarmenta meanwhile voiced a stern message calling for awareness on part of the athletes.
The important thing now regarding the Kiefer Ravena issue is to look forward and prevent a repetition of what happened. Filipino athletes need to be properly informed about the drinks et al. they consume and if there are harmful or internationally banned contents.
— sev sarmenta (@sportssev) May 28, 2018
Prior to his suspension, Ravena was averaging 17.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists a game for the NLEX Road Warriors which are exceptional statistics for a rookie.
Before making his way to the professional league, he was a two-time collegiate Most Valuable Player for the Ateneo Blue Eagles and made the prestigious Mythical Five three times.
Rises and falls
International sports has seen how hard the fall can be for those caught taking prohibited substances.
Lance Armstrong, once considered the face of cycling for his seven Tour de France trophies, was given a lifetime ban from the sport and was stripped of all his awards and medals after an investigation in 2012 revealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Tennis star Maria Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner and at one point in her career the highest paid female athlete in the world, admitted in March 2016 that she tested positive for meldonium, a drug that has just been recently banned.
She was given a 15-month ban after fighting to have her penalty reduced.
Filipino athletes have also seen hard times due to illegal substances.
In 2003, PBA cager Jimwell Torion was suspended indefinitely by his team Red Bull.
Despite the suspension, Red Bull expressed support for his return to the league.
Interviews in recent years quote him as having expressed his desire to play professionally once more.
Recently, former PBA star Macmac Cardona was accused of being high on drugs when he allegedly assaulted his ex-partner.
Cardona, a former Finals Most Valuable Player, had just made his comeback in 2017 after taking time off following a drug overdose in the previous year.