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The Nishinomiya Storks and Ibaraki Robots were censured by the B. League last Friday for letting their import players join team practices before their 14-day quarantine periods had ended.

B. League Chairman Shinji Shimada told a news conference following its board of directors meeting at the league’s offices on Tuesday that he regretted the actions taken by the two second-division clubs, insisting that other clubs could be disciplined more severely if similar cases are discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The punishments were determined by the league’s arbitration committee on Nov. 28 after the two clubs admitted they violated the quarantine rules.

According to a league spokesperson, the league received an inquiry from a fan on October. The fan claimed to have seen a Robots import player arriving at the airport on Sept. 5 and saw that the player played in a preseason game on the 19th of the same month. Upon an inquiry from the fan, the league began investigating the club, which admitted that the player had violated quarantine rules.

Shimada then ordered the league to look into all its clubs, resulting in the discovery of similar violations. In total, Nishinomya and Ibaraki had three and two such players break protocols, respectively.

The names of those players have not been revealed.

After the pandemic made it difficult for B. League teams to bring their imports to Japan, the league petitioned the national government for exceptional treatments to facilitate smoother entry for those players. The circuit submitted a written pledge that said clubs would comply the 14-day quarantine request by the government.

“The government gave us exceptional treatment based on trust and it’s extremely regrettable that this has happened,” Shimada said. “We would like the two clubs to reflect seriously on what they did.”

Robots president Takushi Yamaya posted a statement on his team’s website saying that his club “mistakenly” let those players practice without consulting government officials. He added that the players participated in team practices a few times during their quarantine periods after they tested negative for the virus. Yamaya also noted that one of the players competed in the aforementioned preseason game one hour before his quarantine was to officially end.

Nishinomiya president Goro Watase said in a statement that the club decided to give the imports a chance to exercise in consideration of their physical conditions, making sure they would not contact with any other people that were not associated with the team. But he admitted that the club made an incorrect judgements.

League officials recognize that the public may consider the punishment — requiring each club to submit a written apology — to be too light. But a spokesperson said that the arbitration committee, which consists of lawyers and basketball officials, decided to censure the clubs as they did not violate any laws.

Shimada confessed, however, that the league wanted to give “much harsher” punishments, in light of how other teams have strictly obeyed the rules.

The Robots are tied for the second-best record in B2 at 13-6 while the Storks are 8-10 in the 2020-21 season.

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