Basketball / BJ-League

Washington to fight charges in drug case

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Osaka Evessa power forward Lynn Washington’s legal defense has begun, The Japan Times has learned.

Evessa spokesman Makoto Yamada told The Japan Times that Washington informed the team he plans to hire a lawyer for his ongoing case.

The 33-year-old star was arrested March 13 for suspicion of importing approximately 1 kg of marijuana into Japan.

According to media reports, a package addressed to Washington’s wife, Dana, contained the drugs in November, a violation of Japan’s strict Cannabis Control Law. Dana Washington was arrested in February.

The longtime Evessa standout, now in Osaka Prefectural Police custody, has had a visitor from the U.S. consulate in Osaka, Yamada confirmed on Monday.

“We heard that they decided a 10-day extension of his detention, but we don’t know until when,” added Yamada, discussing the status of Washington’s police custody.

Another source said that Washington is not allowed any visitors at this time “outside of his attorney and the consulate.”

After an initial 48-hour period of detention, prosecutors are given the option of extending it by 10 days twice before having to file charges against Washington.

As the case progresses, the bj-league continues with a dark cloud hanging over the current season.

Saitama Broncos forward John Flowers claimed in an interview with Pittsburgh radio show (93.7 FM’s “The Fan Morning Show) last week that drug use is rampant in the bj-league, saying “I could name at least two people on every team that smoke marijuana out here.”

Last weekend’s drug tests of more than 200 players were supposed to show the league has seriously committed to proving that drugs are not a problem, but a perceived lack of transparency in the process has numerous league insiders questioning its validity and honesty.

Two prominent sources told The Japan Times that about 20 players had failed their tests.

Said one insider: “What I am hearing is up to 20 players have failed. But the league wants to make sure guys pass.”

“Even if you fail,” he continued, “the league is not going to fail anybody or disclose failed tests. They want a 100 percent success rate and Lynn was an isolated incident.”

A former bj-league coach says that drug use by foreign players was a well-known fact around the circuit.

“Everyone knew about many imports have that problem off the court,” he said.

Others disagree.

The league stated, however, “that they’re going to retest anyone who fails,” one coach pointed out.

Another source with longtime ties to the league pointed out, “No, I haven’t heard anything about the drug tests or results. I heard from one Japanese player that players in the bj-league are skeptical about how honest teams are going to be when it comes to reporting the results of the drug tests back to the league.

“It sounds like teams can supply the league with misinformation regarding the tests results.”

Regarding the estimated 20 failed drug tests, the source responded by saying, “Probably everyone from the league would like to hide this fact . . . “

BEAMS, which has supplied uniforms for referees and game officials, has reportedly distanced itself from the league in the aftermath of Washington’s arrest and the potential drug testing scandal. Last weekend, game officials wore different all-black shirts without their standard number on the back.

“Nobody would like to invest their money into a weed league that has drug test-positive players on each team,” the source said. “This may mean the end of the league.”

A former bj-league coach said that the ongoing drug-related issues could impact the proposed merger with the JBL.

“It will be very tough to have this one,” he said. “It is a really bad image for basketball.”

Another longtime hoop insider is taking a more cautionary approach to the rumors and allegations of widespread drug use in the bj-league, though he admitted he’s uncertain what to say at this point.

“I heard some stuff,” he said. “I don’t know what to think about it. It will be interesting to see what comes of all of it.”