A West Virginia boys basketball team found itself displaced -- and had a few players forced to go to the hospital for blood tests -- on the eve of the biggest game of its season for one of the most bizarre reasons imaginable: It's hotel had been housing a meth lab, unbeknownst to officials.
As reported by the Martinsburg Journal and the Associated Press, the Martinsburg (W. Va.) High boys basketball team was staying at a Motel 6 in Charleston near the site of the state semifinals when the Kanawha County Health Department shut down the entire site to investigate a methamphetamine lab that had reportedly been operated out of the hotel in prior months.
Perhaps more troublingly, four members of the Martinsburg team had been staying in one of the rooms in which the lab had operated. Because of potential health threats, the players were sent to a local hospital to undergo blood testing to ensure that they had not been harmed by any residue left over from the drug lab. Health officials told the players that any lingering sensations from residual methamphetamine that they could have contracted in the room should have cleared their system within eight hours, leaving them fit to be healthy by Friday's game.
The problems for Martinsburg didn't end there, either. Players who had left personal belongings in any of the affected rooms were not allowed to retrieve them, with their bags -- and all their clothes and, in one case, a laptop -- instead sent to be tested.
That meant that the four players who were sent to the hospital suddenly had no clothing whatsoever, leaving the players and team officials to rush to a downtown mall to purchase clothing and shoes from a K-Mart so they could get through the subsequent days at the tournament without all the gear they brought with them.
"I feel like I got robbed," Martinsburg senior star William Thompson, who was one of the four players in the contaminated room, told the Journal. ... "I guess we're glad we're all OK."
The team's uniforms were also lost to the investigation of one of the contaminated rooms, forcing a school official to drive the team's junior varsity uniforms from Martinsburg to Charleston so the team could wear them for their semifinal matchup against Charleston (W. Va.) George Washington High.
The drug issues at the Motel 6 also forced Martinsburg to adjust its pregame practice schedule. The team had scheduled gym time for 5 p.m., but because of the testing and shopping needed to accommodate four of its players, it was unable to make that session. Instead, the team had to run a late-night practice at 9 p.m. at the University of Charleston.
The entire incident has been a rough run of luck for Martinsburg, which was assigned the motel as part of a state playoff lottery system. A second West Virginia team, Berkeley Springs (W. Va.) High, had also been staying in the same motel but was eliminated from the state tournament on Wednesday, a day before health officials shut down the facility.
While there was no definite indication that the shutdown and sudden hotel shift -- the team spent Thursday night at a different site in South Charleston -- kept Martinsburg from competing at a high level in its state semifinal, it was George Washington that emerged from the semifinal victorious, upsetting the Bulldogs 53-51.
Whether any of the havoc of the hotel snafu had enough of an impact on the players' and coaches' lives to make a significant impact in the game is a viable question. In the meantime, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission officials are still scrambling to get a better understanding of why they had not been made aware that there had been a meth lab operating at a hotel the organization has housed teams in for the past four seasons.
"We hope to get something more clear in writing what really happened," SSAC executive director Gary Ray told the Journal. "The kids, coaches, staff and parents have handled it well. [Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers] is doing a great job handling the situation,"