NBA says drug tests remain random, despite convenient timing after 71-point performances

You may have heard the latest NBA conspiracy theory, the one that claims the league responds to impressive performances by its players by ordering drug tests immediately afterward. The eye test, of course, posits that the timing of these tests is not as random as the term “random drug test” suggests. The NBA insists it’s a mere coincidence, even after the latest example made headlines last week.

Damian Lillard paced the Houston Rockets with 71 points on Sunday, tied for the eighth-highest single-game total in NBA history. After the final buzzer, a giddy and jubilant Lillard retreated to the Portland Trail Blazers locker room to celebrate the performance, only to find a medical assistant waiting for him.

The reason? He had been selected for a random drug test, something the Year 11 star said he had never been subjected to in his historic scoring burst.

“I said, ‘Are you serious?'” Lillard told reporters later that night. “I took the urine test yesterday, and they confirmed it with the blood draw tonight after the game, and it was actually the first time in my career that they tested me after a game. And then , apart from that, they know that I’m afraid of needles.

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell had the same experience the following January too losing 71 points in a single game.

There are other examples of NBA players being tested after impressive performances. Corey Brewer, averaging a career-high 8.7 points per game, somehow scored 51 points in April 2014, one of the most improbable performances in NBA history. A few years later, Brewer said CBS Sports who gave him a drug test after the game.

In 2020, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal he told reporters who was selected for a drug test after scoring 50 points the night before.

And in June 2021, then-Orlando Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams was tested the day after he posted a photo of himself on Instagram highlighting the muscle he’d added during the offseason. (Of course, it’s not a test after a big scoring performance, but the timing at least seemed a little more convenient than random to NBA watchers.)

Can they really be coincidences? According to an NBA spokesperson reached by FOX Sports on Thursday, yes.

The league conducts hundreds of drug tests each season. The drug test is part of the collective bargaining agreement, negotiated by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. It is mentioned in Section 6 of the so-called “Anti-Drug Program” of the CBA, which states that a player “shall submit to testing for prohibited substances at any time, without prior notice to the player, for a maximum of four (4) . ) times each season and no more than two (2) times during each off-season.”

In their joint anti-drug program, the NBA and NBPA state that “the Program subjects each player to no more than nine random, unannounced drug tests during each season and off-season: up to six urine tests and three of blood.”

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As for when these tests are conducted and how selected players are determined, the CBA states that players will be tested “according to a random selection procedure of players by a third party organization.” The league, union, players and teams are blinded to this process.

This third party organization is a company called Drug Free Sport. (He referred all inquiries from FOX Sports to the NBA.) According to a league spokesman, the names of players to be tested are randomly generated by a computer system the day before the test is conducted, but they are not transmitted to local testers until the day. of the test So in Lillard’s case, he had been scheduled for a test 24 hours before he hit the first of his 13 three-pointers en route to 71 points.

The only gray area in all of this is a clause in the anti-drug program that gives freedom to test players “based on reasonable cause at any time.” But according to the NBA, no “reasonable cause” test has ever been conducted because of on-court performance.

Grant Williams, the Boston Celtics forward and NBPA first vice president, told FOX Sports on Monday that despite fan theories, it’s not a big concern for players. As for the drug tests after huge performances like Lillard’s, he was also puzzled.

“It’s just a funny coincidence,” Williams said.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Closing in on the top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the boldest run in professional sports history. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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