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Nick Calathes suspended 20-games, will miss entire playoffs

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Nick Calathes is mounting a defense, according to reports on April 19, after being suspended 20-games on Friday
(April 18). Calathes, who was suspended prior to the Memphis Grizzlies first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, believes the suspension is “unfair”. However, the league plans to stand by its ruling under the collective bargaining agreement.

Calathes was suspended less than 24 hours before the Grizzlies started their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder for use of the drug Tamoxifen, which is one of the 140 substances banned by the NBA's performance-enhancing drug policy. While Tamoxifen is not directly a PED it is a masking agent for other substances, including synthetic testosterone.

"[It was] an over-the-counter supplement to treat a private but common medical condition; the NBA rejected it because it doesn't require a prescription," Calathes’ attorney David Cornwell said.

According to NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan, who oversees the league's drug-testing program, the collective bargaining agreement does not allow it to consider intent. He added that the players have a strict liability on knowing what they put in their bodies.

Calathes is just the fifth player to be suspended by the NBA for PEDs since 2007 and the the first player to receive a 20-game ban; the suspensions were increased from 10 games as part of the CBA signed in late 2011. Prior to Calathes’ ban, O.J. Mayo (2011) was the last player to be suspended for PED use.

The National Basketball Players Association has the option of asking for an expedited grievance to be heard within 10 days. However, it is unlikely that anything will be resolved before the playoffs are over and unlike Major League Baseball there is no stay on the suspension allowing the player to play during the appeals process.

The loss of Calathes is hurtful for the Grizzlies. The rookie backup point guard averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 assists in 16.5 minutes of action. Veteran Beno Udrih will likely be Mike Conley’s primary backup now. Udrih, who was acquired by Memphis on Feb. 28, played his most minutes as a member of the Grizzlies in Game one against 15 Oklahoma City, which the Thunder won. He scored three points, on 1-of-4 shooting, and grabbed four caroms.

Game two of the series is April 21 in Oklahoma City.

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