After a solid rookie year and a promising Opening Night, Phoenix Suns center and 2018 No. 1 draft pick Deandre Ayton has been hit with some bad news: The league announced it is suspending Ayton for using a diuretic that is banned in the collective bargaining agreement.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the potential suspension, which carries a 25-game penalty.
But Ayton and the NBPA are expected to fight the suspension through arbitration. Under NBA rules, Ayton has 30 days to initiate arbitration but the union is seeking to begin that process quickly.
Exactly how long that process will take, though, is uncertain. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement provides only that, “the Grievance Arbitrator shall render an award as soon as practicable.”
What Is a Diuretic?
In the NBA-NBPA anti-drug agreement, there are 24 diuretics listed as banned. Often, these drugs are used for weight loss and to mask the use of performance-enhancing substances, primarily steroids. Ayton has shown no significant weight gain or loss—he was listed at 250 pounds coming out of Arizona into last year’s draft and was listed again at 250 for this season.
Diuretics are banned in most sports. They’re often prescribed to non-athletes who need to lose weight because of heart problems or high blood pressure.
But for athletes, they’re often a means to quickly flush other substances–though they also can come up in over-the-counter supplements, which appears to be the argument Ayton will make in his appeal.
That might not carry much water with the league, though. Center Joakim Noah, in 2017, was suspended 20 games for taking an over-the-counter supplement, though that contained a banned performance-enhancer, not a diuretic.
As Dr. Mark Batt, a consultant in sport and exercise medicine at The Centre for Sports Medicine, in Nottingham, U.K., explained to the Guardian, “The reason they are banned is, if you take a banned substance that is excreted through urine, it could speed up the elimination of drugs from the system.”
The diuretic itself, though, is not a performance-enhancing substance. But for leagues like the NBA, which are trying to keep up with new technologies in performance-enhancing drug use, treating masking agents like diuretics the same as the offending drugs has been key to fighting the spread of PEDs.
Diuretic bans in sport go back to 1988, in fact, when the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) ruled them off-limits for athletes.
Losing Deandre Ayton a Big Blow to Suns
If Ayton is suspended, it will be a devastating blow to the Suns, who have been counting on his development to finally begin moving a franchise that has been among the worst in the NBA for the last four seasons. Phoenix won 19 games last year, following seasons in which it won 21, 24 and 23 games.
Ayton had 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in the season-opening win over the Kings on Wednesday and was thrilled to get the season going. “I’m just ready to explode to be honest,” he told reporters before the game. “I don’t even know how to express it.”
But Ayton, who averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds as a rookie, now could be out for a long while.