The ghost of doping in the NBA


The suspension of three players for the use of substances to improve physical performance in the most important basketball league in the world raises questions about how many athletes are actually consuming these stimulants and the consequences of an endless season.

  • By Juan Pablo
  • Zaracho @laespadasagrada

John Collins was starting a season with high hopes. The Atlanta Hawks player is one of the great figures of a team that fights the last places, but where he stood out for his energy game and ability to convert and grab bounces. Now he will pass 25 suspended matches because his doping test tested positive for a banned substance. It is not the first case in a league where competition and wear is increasing.


Collins is the third player suspended in the year. In his case, a synthetic hormone that increases appetite and generates growth hormones was detected. According to the player, this happened because he took a supplement that, unknowingly, contained this component, thus removing the blame on the team.

Wilson Chandler of the Brooklyn Nets was previously suspended, who tested positive for the drug ipamorelin, which decreases fat storage and increases muscle development in the body. Already during the season, Deandre Ayton, the player chosen first in the 2018 Draft, was also suspended for 25 games, in his case for testing a diuretic substance. A diuretic is considered a prohibited substance because its consumption allows hiding the presence of prohibited elements in other tests.

Thus, in a few weeks, three players were suspended for substances to improve performance, while only 13 players received this punishment in the entire history of the league.

Unlike baseball, whose image was damaged by the massive use of steroids by its main stars, the NBA has never had such problems. This in some cases caught the attention, as several laboratories that were investigated for the baseball doping scandal mentioned that they also performed treatments for basketball players. In 2011, Derrick Rose, who was the most valuable player in the league that season, said the consumption in the league was "huge" and that players should have no advantages over others. Then he denied the comments and said he "did not understand" the question.

The NBA is especially sensitive to any image regarding drug use due to its history with them. At the end of the 70s and early 80s, cocaine use among players was massive and greatly affected the style of play. This also drove fans away, who rejected these players for not feeling identified with them.

With the arrival of David Stern in 1984 as commissioner, his job was to change the image of the league, away from drug users and closer to the fanatical families of basketball. For this reason, much stricter controls were carried out.

cough and greater penalties for offenders. This change led to 6 players being banned for life for use of substances such as cocaine and alcohol abuse.

In the last year a player, Tyreke Evans, was expelled from the league for giving positive drug use, but the number of league members suspended for substance abuse has been much lower. To avoid these situations, the league implements workshops for rookies about substance abuse and its consequences.


One of the reasons why players are looking for supplements to improve their performance in the NBA is due to the exhausting season they face. In total 82 games are played, a format that has been used for more than 50 years, being an essential part of the league's way of playing. Only on some days like Christmas and Thanksgiving, no matches are played.

Seeing the adverse effects of such a long and intense competition led Adam Silver, commissioner of the league, to make several changes in recent years. The main change was to start the season weeks before, thus allowing more rest time between games. In addition to that it was sought to reduce the number of games played on consecutive nights, in addition to extending the days off at the All-Star weekend, to give players a greater respite, such as minivacations in the season.

Despite these attempts, new ways of reducing the workload on players are still being sought, due to fear of injury, lack of sleep, among other sequels of the number of games played. Silver himself has said that in a few years the league will analyze reducing the number of matches, but franchise owners do not support this proposal due to the money that would be lost due to the lower amount of tickets sold and the smaller number of matches to be offered. for the television package.

These positive doping tests show an interest of the NBA in reducing the consumption of hormones that improve physical performance. In total, each player can be controlled 4 times a year, and already before the first 10 games of season 3 of them ended up suspended. This amount of suspended players has raised the alarm about the true use of these substances among the players and how much could make a difference between them. Beyond the consumption of them, the league is seeing how to make the season itself less exhausting, but many athletes will always look for an advantage, as this means greater contracts and minutes of play.

1 – “The NBA’s rise in PED suspensions, explained” – SB Nation

2 – “Shorter season? Shorter games? Silver ponders NBA format ”- Associated Press

3 – “Does John Collinss PED Suspension Signal a Larger Change in the NBA?” – The Ringer

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