Latvian basketball takes a blow

  • 2007-05-02
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - Latvian basketball star Kaspars Kambala received a 14 month suspension from the International Basketball Federation on April 27 for failing a doping test. The disqualification went into effect retroactively, from Dec. 13, 2006 's the day the sample was given, and will last until Feb. 12, 2008. The ban covers both national and international competitions.

This means that Kambala will not be able to play for Latvia in the upcoming European Basketball Championships in Spain this September. Kambala had not played for Latvia in the championships the past two years in a row, but expressed a desire to play in this year's event before the doping test came back positive.

Latvian Basketball Union president Ojars Kehris expressed his regret that Kambala will not be able to play on the Latvian team in the final tournament for the European championship in Spain. "First we have to hear Kambala's opinion on the incident. At present he is in the United States and we have not managed to contact him due to the time change," Kehris said.
Kambala has played basketball for a number of prominent clubs in the United States, Spain, Russia and Turkey. He is currently one of the most dominant players in Europe. He most recently played for the Turkish club Fenerbahce-Ulker, and took the doping test before a Euroleague game with the Greek club Aris on Dec. 13. The doping test revealed traces of cocaine in his system.

The disqualification period is normally two years, but Kambala received a reduced sentence due to extenuating circumstances and cooperation with the legal process. Kambala immediately confessed, saying that he had taken some pills from a friend without knowing what they contained.
During the hearing Kambala said he had been under extreme mental stress upon finding out that his brother had contracted a similar illness to the one that had killed another one of his siblings three years earlier 's severe meningitis. He reported that a close friend noticed his mental distress and offered him the pills in an effort to help ease his mind.
Cocaine remains in the body for up to 36 hours, but can be traced for up to 48 hours.

Kambala is only the second Latvian basketball player who has been caught using a banned substance. In 2002, BK Ventspils player Juris Umbrasko was caught using a banned doping substance and received a two year ban from The Latvian Basketball Union.