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BASKETBALL/Jeremy Lin banned for five games over blood treatment

03/19/2024 10:41 PM
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Jeremy Lin, Photo courtesy of PLG
Jeremy Lin, Photo courtesy of PLG

Taipei, March 19 (CNA) The P.LEAGUE+ (PLG) handed Jeremy Lin (林書豪) of the New Taipei Kings a five-game suspension on Tuesday after he received blood treatment for an injury which is not allowed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the PLG emphasized that no prohibited substances were involved in the former NBA combo guard's rehabilitation, but he violated the related rules of WADA by receiving Intravenous Laser Irradiation of Blood (ILIB), a medical process that uses blood purification, detoxification, and biochemical laser to increase red blood cells' cellular energy and oxygen intake.

In addition to the suspension, which takes effect from the March 23 game with the Kaohsiung 17LIVESteelers to the one with the Taipei Fubon Braves on April 6, Lin also faces a fine of NT$150,000 (US$4,719), the PLG said, citing Article 24-3 from chapter four in its rulebook.

"If a player is found breaching the rules set by the WADA for banned drugs and leading to unfair results, the league will obliterate the franchise's all records that involved the banned drugs.

"Those who violate the rules can face a one-year suspension, a lifetime suspension, or be fined up to NT$500,000," the league wrote.

The disciplinary measures were announced hours after New Taipei issued a statement and explained that it did not intend the arranged treatment to enhance the player's performance but to "boost the injury recovery" for Lin, who has been plagued by a lingering foot injury in 2024.

After suiting up all 14 games for the Kings at the PLG and the East Asia Super League (EASL), Lin has been unavailable most of the time this year, playing only four of the team's 18 games in the two leagues.

Lin revealed that he sustained a plantar fascia injury in late January. On March 17, the Kings updated his status to "out" for an uncertain period of time.

The franchise admitted that it had no idea that the treatment was not allowed by WADA, though it is legal according to Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The franchise's medical team apologized to Lin for their negligence, the Kings said, adding that they would comply with the league's investigation and have deleted a video showing Lin receiving the treatment.

Questions over Lin's treatment were raised after the Kings uploaded a YouTube video on March 7 showing the 35-year-old veteran receiving ILIB at Taipei's ĒSEN Clinic. Some people argued that the boosted oxygen intake is a form of performance enhancement that violates guidelines laid out by WADA.

Speaking with CNA on Tuesday, Arnold Chen (陳志弘) of the Chinese Taipei Anti-Doping Agency said that while WADA forbids athletes from manipulating their blood or the content inside the bloodstream from within their blood vessels, whether or not Lin has violated WADA regulations is still open to interpretation since the agency's laws do not clearly address the use of ILIB.

Chen added that as Taiwan's athletes are managed by their respective leagues, the foundation will only seek confirmation from WADA if the PLG submits a request.

Athletes in Taiwan may only use banned substances and methods by submitting paperwork to prove that such treatments do not enhance athletic performance and that the remedies are the only option to aid their recovery, Chen added.

Meanwhile, Tsai Wen-chung (蔡文鐘), director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Taoyuan Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said that no research has proven ILIB effective in enhancing athletes' performance.

However, "the core value of banned drug rules is to prohibit the use of unnatural methods to change one's physical constitution and the way it is constituted," Tsai said.

ILIB, which boosts red blood cells' oxygen intake and mitochondrion's energy, is mainly used in treating seniors with neural diseases, Tsai said, noting that it is rarely used to treat athletes unless during their offseasons.

The use of ILIB is not the first time the former NBA star has been embroiled in a medical controversy in Taiwan.

A masseur hired by Lin was found to have violated Taiwan's Physicians Act after Lin posted a video on Instagram of himself receiving acupuncture from the individual, who is not a licensed doctor.

(By Huang Chiao-wen, Chen Chieh-ling, James Lo, and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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