Allonzo Trier’s Suspension: More Questions Than AnswersPosted by Mike Lemaire on January 19th, 2017
Just minutes before Utah was set to play Washington State in what promised to be one of the least exciting Pac-12 games of the week, ESPN made things much more interesting by reporting on the reason behind Arizona star Allonzo Trier’s long suspension. A poorly kept secret for months in college basketball circles, Trier’s indefinite suspension was the result of a positive test in September 2016 for a performance-enhancing drug. According to the report, Trier had appealed the suspension and won, but the NCAA would not allow him to play until the drug had completely exited his system. This explains why no one has been able to provide realistic timetables on when the sophomore guard would be back on the court.
This is a compelling story for a myriad of reasons. First, any time one of the most recognizable programs in college basketball is involved in something newsworthy, it is going to draw interest. Second, there just aren’t many historical instances where a college basketball player has been suspended for PED use. A quick Google search turns up a number of stories on college football players getting suspended for PED use, but there are very few high-profile cases of PED use in college basketball. Finally, what makes this story so fascinating is the way it has been handled from the very beginning.
One thing is clear from Wednesday night’s surprise announcement, which is that Arizona is still in control of the story. Assuming there were dozens of local and national reporters trying to confirm the reason for Trier’s suspension over the last five months, the “Player’s Program” did a great job of keeping the rumor unconfirmed. But just because the news is finally out in the sunshine doesn’t mean that the program has sprung a leak; rather, if you read Trier’s well-written statement, it seems that quite the opposite is true. To be clear, just because Arizona remains in control of the information flow doesn’t mean there is anything nefarious going on. It is understandable why the program would want to keep news of a failed drug test under wraps, and there is no reason to doubt Trier’s version of events. However, the fact that Trier’s long absence has been such an enduring mystery combined with the narrow scope of available information leaves several key unanswered questions.
- What is the drug? Hopefully we will get the answer to this question soon, but for now, it is the biggest gap in public knowledge. The NCAA’s ruling about Trier waiting until the drug leaves his system is especially confusing. It seemingly rules out the possibility that the drug in question was a “Stimulant” or “Street Drug” — both of which are on the NCAA’s list of banned substances — but what type of drug takes nearly half a year to flush out of someone’s system?
- How did Trier come to possess this drug? The official explanation is that Trier was given the drug by a “well-intentioned” friend after he was hurt in a car accident, and that story is both plausible and believable. But the explanation that Trier was given a banned substance “without his knowledge” begs for greater context. Was Trier given a tainted supplement? Did a well-intentioned family friend slip a supplemental powder into his drink? There is likely a reasonable rationale for this wording but it seems odd that Trier would allow himself to ingest a foreign substance without knowing what it was, and it seems odder still that someone could give Trier a banned substance without his knowledge.
- Why is Arizona allowing this information out now? There aren’t many logical explanations for why Arizona waited so long to break this news. If Trier’s eligibility had been restored and his reputation had been cleared back in November, why would the program wait so much longer to confirm that information? There aren’t a lot of obvious advantages to playing this one so close to the vest, because, if anything, it made people even more curious about why he was sitting out and forced Arizona into a defensive position. Maybe Sean Miller will eventually explain the rationale behind the timing of this decision.
- Will Allonzo Trier actually play for Arizona this season? Taking off the detective hat, the news that Trier will be cleared to play as soon as his system allows could have huge implications on Arizona’s season. A very good team could turn into a legitimate Final Four contender overnight thanks to Trier’s additional scoring punch to complement an already stout defense. But for that to happen, the mystery drug needs to exit his system completely, and nobody seems to know when that is likely to happen.