Chinese league's first doping case makes headlines

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Marcus Williams (file photo)

Former NBA player Marcus Williams' positive test caught sports news headlines in China on the New Year's Day.

Tuesday morning's news featured the American who recorded the first doping case in China's professional basketball league after being tested positive for marijuana.

"The first doping case in CBA as Marcus banned for six months", read the headline on Chinese portal The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) also fined Williams' team Shanxi Zhongyu 10,000 yuan (about 1,500 U.S. dollars) as it announced the decision on Monday evening.

Although it is the first case in CBA league's 17-year history, rumors of CBA's foreign players using banned substances, usually marijuana, appeared now and then.

Shandong Business newspaper revealed that a foreign player formerly playing for Shandong used to smoke marijuana.

"Marcus Williams was not the first foreign player smoking marijuana. He was the first to be caught," said the newspaper.

Even if cannabinoids or metabolites of marijuana is among the most abused drugs, ranked third in 2011 positive cases according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, Chinese players were rarely found using marijuana, which is a recreational drug more than performance-enhancing.

West China City Daily warned that a bad trend could be followed by other professional players.

"The CBA needs to learn from the NBA, but only the good things," commented the newspaper.

"A number of famous NBA players have been recruited by the Chinese clubs in recent years, which has raised the standard of the league. Also coming with them was terrible habits such as smoking marijuana," it said.

"The association must stop the trend from the very beginning," the newspaper added.

China's Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) also urged the basketball association to do more education and tests. Merely 12 tests after 96 matches were carried out by far this season that kicked off on Nov. 24, 2013 and runs through to Feb. 17.

"From this case we can see there are indeed problems in the CBA's anti-doping education and tests," said Zhao Jian, deputy director of CHINADA.

"We hope the CBA will offer to do more tests this year."

The CBA slapped a six-month ban on Williams on the New Year's eve, two weeks after CHINADA informed them of the positive case.

"We should learn from this lesson. We should conduct more tests and improve the regulations. We have zero tolerance towards doping," the CBA said in Monday's statement.

For Williams, the punishment means he will have to sit out the rest of the season and his team is free to replace him with another foreign player.

Williams, 26, apologized right after the CBA's announcement.

"To all the CBA fans, Shanxi fans, sponsors, as well as my coaches and players, I sincerely apologize. I have let a lot of people down and I regret it more then anything. I understand everyone's disappointment and I will do everything to improve and grow from this," said Williams who had the best three-double record in 2010 season.

Then he said he used marijuana to relieve stomachache, according to the report of Beijing Daily.

Williams had played for the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers before he moved to China to join Zhejiang in 2010. He was transferred to Shanxi in 2011 and averaged 32.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season.

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