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Player arrest leads JBL to order drug testing

Date Posted: 2012-03-23

The arrest of Osaka Evessa star Lynn Washington for alleged drug smuggling of marijuana into Japan has sparked the Basketball Japan League to order mandatory drug testing for its players.

Washington is suspended from the team as he faces charges stemming from a package containing 1-1.5kg of marijuana being smuggled into Japan last November. He is denying the charges and the BJL says it is also investigating alongside Japanese government officials.

The JPL has ordered all players to submit to the drug testing, says commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi. “We will announce the results of the test,” he said, and “make every effort to regain confidence in us.” The rival Japan Basketball League already conducts random drug testing, but sources say that since the BJL began in 2005, extensive drug testing has not been in place.

Players stepping forward say they’ve never been tested. One American player says he’s been with three teams and has played in the BJL since arriving in Japan and has never been tested. Former Saitama Broncos player and coach David Benoit, who’s also been with the Kyoto Hannaryz, says he was never ordered to take a drug test during his time in both the JBL and BJL. Some, like Oita HeatDevils guard Matt Lottich, who was with Washington during three straight championships with the Evessa, says “I support league-wide drug testing”, as does Chiba Jets coach Eric Gardow, who says “there is no place in sports for drugs.”

Another coach took a different view, calling the drug testing call “more a publicity stunt.” He said “I’m not a fan of drug testing, but if it’s going to happen, it should happen at the beginning of each season.” A long-time player called the testing order “a knee-jerk reaction by the BJL to save face.” Another player said “this is Lynn’s problem and Lynn’s problem alone, unless there’s strong proof showing otherwise they’re not telling us, which I doubt.”

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