In early April, Milwaukee Bucks forward Larry Sanders tested positive for marijuana, a league violation that earned him a five-game suspension and topped off a season-long saga of problems.
A troubled timeline
The 2013-14 NBA season hasn’t exactly been full of positive press for the talented yet clearly troubled Larry Sanders. In August 2013, Sanders was awarded a $44 million contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks; it was a move expected to make him the face of the franchise. Over the next few months, he was the most talked about player on the team, but not for good reasons.
In November, Sanders was sidelined for 25 games due to a thumb injury that required surgery. He sustained the injury during a physical altercation at a Milwaukee nightclub that was caught on video. The fight earned him citations from Milwaukee police, including disorderly conduct and assault and battery. Though formerly cited, police did not pursue criminal charges.
Sanders returned to the court after his recovery, but wouldn’t stay long. In early January, following a tough loss, he got into a locker room shouting match with teammate Gary Neal that made headlines. Then in February, he took an elbow to the face during a game against the Houston Rockets. The damage: a fractured orbital bone that required season-ending surgery. Though the on-court incident was not his fault, it was one more blow to his already rocky season.
Lessons not learned
Sanders made the news yet again in early April, this time for failing a drug test – for the third consecutive time.
NBA rules on marijuana use are among the most lax of any professional sport. They no longer test players in the off-season, and players can fail up to two separate drug tests in their professional careers before facing suspensions. Still, the lenient policy wasn’t quite enough for Larry Sanders. Despite having already failed twice, he apparently continues smoking marijuana. Since he was out for the remainder of this season for his February injury, Sanders will not begin his penalty suspension until the start of next season.
After news broke about the failed drug test, he spoke candidly with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and ended up adding insult to injury. Though he was apologetic to fans about the suspension and recognized marijuana was a banned substance in the NBA, he followed up the acknowledgement by defending his actions and advocating for medical use the drug. “I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it,” he said.
Facing consequences and getting help
Regardless of what your feelings may be about the legality of drug – and remember, it is indeed a drug – Larry Sanders defiantly disregarded the rules of his workplace for the sake of getting high, which sounds a lot like the behavior of someone who has a substance abuse problem.
He put his desire to get high above the responsibilities of his job – responsibilities he’d already neglected in prior mishaps. Worse still, he’d already been granted two prior chances to get clean without consequences. Yet, he still chose to use. Hopefully facing his suspension in the 2014-15 season will open his eyes to his reckless behavior.
If you suspect you have a problem with marijuana, alcohol, or other substances, or are looking for help for a loved one, contact The Watershed today: 1-800-861-1768.