The recent decision by FIBA to impose an 18 month suspension on PBA NLEX player Kiefer Ravena is trending on social media — expected because this guy has a lot of following, he has the looks and the basketball skills and is definitely on his way to becoming a legitimate basketball superstar.
Again, just to clarify and to correct the impression that Kiefer, son of former PBA player Bong and ex-volleyball player Mozzy, is involved in drugs as in shabu or marijuana or ecstacy, perish the thought. What he was found guilty of was taking three banned substances after he was subjected to a random drug testing last February following Gilas’ winning game against Japan.
To be very specific, the World Anti-doping Agency or WADA, which is the international body that is tasked to check on possible drug use by athletes, found higenamine, dimethylbutylamine and methylhexan-2-amine in his urine. These are considered performance enhancing drugs that unfortunately for Kiefer, he unknowingly ingested when he took a pre-work out drink just before that game against Japan. The drink, DUST, is not even a regulated drink in the sense that you can supposedly buy it over the counter.
To his credit, Kiefer appeared in a press conference called by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and explained his side, and more importantly, taking responsibility for his action, an honest mistake he says, as he did not know that the drink contained regulated substances banned by WADA. And for that matter, guess how many athletes are aware of all the regulated drugs that are available in the market. I will bet you, even coaches will not be aware of this matter, or if at all, players and coaches will have very limited knowledge on this matter.
In management, when we discipline people, we look at the infraction whether it is an error of omission or error of commission. If the employee did not know what he did was wrong, an example would be an infraction against a policy or a company SOP that he is not aware of, it is an error of commission. However, if he commits the same mistake in the future, it becomes an error of commission, meaning he already knew his act was wrong and still he did it.
And that is the case of Kiefer. That, plus his taking responsibility for his action and even volunteering to lead an education campaign, speaks well of his breeding and maturity. I know his parents personally and I will never believe that they will condone this kind of action by Kiefer. Both his parents were athletes and know what drugs can do to an athlete.
But unfortunately, ignorance is not an excuse under the law and so the FIBA, even taking into consideration mitigating circumstances in the case of Kiefer, imposed that penalty on the player, and Kiefer and the SBP has no choice but to accept the decision.
What this incident teaches is the importance of preventive education for our athletes, not just basketball. It’s just so unfortunate that it happened in the case of a highly visible and popular athlete in Kiefer. But it could happen to any Filipino athlete competing abroad for that matter. But whether it will have the same impact or media visibility as in the case of Kiefer, I really would not know.
It is good that the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has recognized the situation for what it is — a wake up call for our sports officials to take more seriously this case, and for that alone, Kiefer has done a big favor for Philippine sports, unwittingly as it may be.
Kiefer will be back, an older and wiser player and person. He paid the price but he will also benefit from it.