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Eric Freeman

The Spurs teach their team about performance-enhancing drugs

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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As you may have heard, Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo(notes) was suspended for 10 games last week for testing positive for DHEA, violating the terms of the league's anti-drug program. Mayo says he ingested the substance unknowingly as part of an energy drink, and there's no clear evidence to believe he's lying.

But he's suspended regardless, and NBA teams are now stepping up education efforts to make sure their players don't accidentally take a banned substance. Not surprisingly, the Spurs are at the forefront. From Mike Monroe at Spurs Nation:

"We meet with every player individually and go over all supplements we use, which we've obviously researched, even visited the labs to make sure everything is up to snuff," [strength and conditioning coach Mike] Brungardt said. "When we have the first team meeting of the year, we address the fact we want all of them to use only supplements we're providing. If they have something else they want to use, they have to make us aware of it so we can make sure it's safe and not to use anything at all they got over the counter. [...]

"When we do our meetings, they tell us right away, ‘Don't take anything from outside,'?" [sic] Spurs point guard Tony Parker(notes) said. "Everything we have to take is what the Spurs want us to take. They don't want us to take anything else.

"On our team, everyone is pretty much disciplined. We're serious about taking care of our bodies. Every day, you can talk with ‘Brungy' or Will (head athletic trainer Will Sevening)."

Monroe also notes that Mayo had this same kind of help available to him from the Grizzlies, so perhaps the Spurs aren't quite as forward-thinking as I like to think. But whatever the case, San Antonio clearly has its players' trust in this area and rewards it with valuable consultation.

Again, I'm not sure these education practices make them different than other franchises, but the fact that the Spurs have the team's attention on these matters is symptomatic of a well-run organization. If the Spurs hadn't proven their usefulness and value in the more obvious areas of running a basketball team -- like, say, winning games and developing skills -- Parker and others wouldn't trust them to control their supplements. Perhaps Mayo strayed from the Grizzlies here because of a broader issue with the organization.

I don't want to make it seem like Mayo only took DHEA because he plays for the Grizzlies -- Rashard Lewis(notes) was caught for the same substance at the beginning of last season and the Orlando Magic are also a successful team. But there does seem to be a greater amount of trust between the Spurs and their players than for pretty much any other franchise. That doesn't happen by accident, and all other teams should use it as a shining example to follow.

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