The 35 times NBA players were banned or suspended for drug abuse and performance enhancing drugs

Whether it’s substance abuse, a performance enhancing drug or continued violations of the procedures, the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program and guidelines are in place so that when players violate the terms of that agreement, they are suspended, dismissed, disqualified, and punished without pay.

According to the league’s guidelines, an NBA player may be suspended (officially “dismissed and disqualified”) from the league in a few ways. The two primary ways that a player can be dismissed from the league is when a player tests positive for a drug of abuse or if that player is convicted of or pleads guilty to the use, possession or distribution of a drug of abuse. When a player is suspended under the program, they have to ensure that they live up to procedural guidelines set forth by the program, and if they don’t they can be punished further.

How Many NBA Players Have Been Suspended Due to Drugs?

Since the 1980’s there’s been dozens of players that have been dismissed and disqualified by the NBA for players that have ran afoul of the policy. Some of the bigger names include former NBA all-star Micheal Ray Richardson and up-and-coming player like Roy Tarpley. More recent examples of players that were banned for a significant amount of time are Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo, Chris Andersen and Richard Dumas.

NBA Players Suspensions For Drug Use
Year Month Player Duration Team Policy/Drug
1986 Jan John Drew Permanently ATL Substance
1986 Feb Micheal Ray Richardson Life NJN Cocaine
1987 Jan Lewis Lloyd 2.5 years HOU Cocaine
1987 Jan Mitchell Wiggins Life HOU Cocaine
1988 Sep Duane Washington Suspended ATL Substance Abuse
1989 Jun Duane Washington Life ATL Substance Abuse
1991 Oct Roy Tarpley Two Years DAL Substance Abuse
1991 N/A Richard Dumas Suspension PHX Drug of Abuse
1993 N/A Richard Dumas Indefinitely PHX Banned Substance
1995 N/A Richard Dumas Permanently   PHL Alcohol
1995 N/A Roy Tarpley Permanently DAL Alcohol
1999 Nov Stanley Roberts Permanently PHL Banned Substance
2003 Nov Maurice Taylor 6 games HOU Drug Policy
2004 Feb Chris Webber 3 games SAC Drug Policy
2006 Jan Chris Andersen Permanently NOH Banned Substance
2007 Mar Lindsey Hunter 10 days DET Phentermine
2008 Sep Darius Miles 10 games BOS Phentermine
2009 Aug Rashard Lewis 10 games ORL Dehydroepiandrosterone
2013 Feb Hedo Turkoglu 20 games ORL Methenolone
2013 Aug Terel Harris 5 games POR Violating Terms
2013 Sep J.R. Smith 5 games NYK Violating Terms
2014 Mar Arnett Moultrie 5 games PHL Violating Terms
2014 Apr Nick Calathes 20 games MEM Tamoxifen
2014 Sep J.J. Hickson 5 games DEN Violating Terms
2015 Dec Al Jefferson 5 games CHA Violating Terms
2011 Jan O.J. Mayo 10 days MIL Dehydroepiandrosterone
2015 Jan Larry Sanders 10 games MIL Marijuana
2016 Jul O.J. Mayo Two Years MIL Drug of Abuse
2016 Jul Mitch McGary 5 games OKC Drug Policy
2016 Sep Mitch McGary 10 games OKC Procedural
2017 Mar Joakim Noah 20 games NYK Ligandrol
2017 Jun Reggie Bullock 5 games DET Violating Terms
2017 Jun Monta Ellis 5 games IND Violating Terms
2018 Apr Jodie Meeks 25 games WSH Ipamorelin and GHRP-2
2019 May Tyreke Evans Two Years IND Drug of Abuse
2019 Aug Wilson Chandler 25 games BKN Ipamorelin
2019 Oct Deandre Ayton 25 games PHX Diuretic
2019 Nov John Collins 25 games ATL Peptide-2
2019 Nov Dion Waiters 10 games MIA THC
2020 Feb Malik Monk Indefinitely CHA unknown

History of NBA Players Banned from the NBA

The NBA really began officially evolving and enforcing their Anti-Drug policy in the mid-1980’s. That’s why you see more of the drastic suspensions during that decade. Specifically, four players were banned across the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons. Starting in January 1986 when John Drew became the first player banned for life under the NBA’s anti-drug contract, The next month Micheal Ray Richardson of the New Jersey Nets was banned permanently after three violations of the league’s drug policy then in January 1987 Lewis Lloyd and Mitchell Wiggins of the Houston Rockets both received significant suspensions.

A few years later, players like Roy Tarpley and Richard Dumas struggled to stay within the NBA’s guidelines and were suspended multiple times before finally being banned. In 1991, both Tarpley and Dumas were suspended violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy.

Tarpley was reinstated two years later in 1994 but then was permanently banned (again) from the league again in 1995 for using alcohol. Dumas took a similar path. He was again suspended in 1993 after he tested positive for a banned substance and failing to participate in a drug rehabilitation program. Like Tarpley, Dumas was reinstated in 1995 but was also banned for violating a clause in his contract which prohibited him from consuming alcohol. Tarpley passed away at the age of 50 from liver failure.

Unfortunately, players that have been banned or suspended historically have greater odds of returning to the NBA even when they’re reinstated. That’s further emphasized if you consider that the average NBA playing career in five years. Sitting out 2-3 seasons not only is a huge detriment to your physical abilities, but players come back with a reputation. Take, for example, players like Mayo and Mitch McGary both of whom never got back onto the NBA court. Stanley Roberts, Darius Miles and Larry Sanders played one more season after their suspensions. Four time NBA All-Star Richardson ended up playing the rest of his career in Europe.

The NBA/NBPA Adjusts Anti-Drug Policy for the Times

Since the spate of banned-for-life suspensions in from 1986-1991, the NBA’s Anti-Drug agreement has evolved with the times; from a relatively strict reading of the policy to a case-by-case basis with a deeper understanding of the different categories and severity. That’s because the times (and the drugs) have changed. Not only is the use of recreational marijuana becoming legal throughout the country, but there’s also phentermine and dehydroepiandrosterone. Those new categories of drugs of abuse and performance enhancing steroids requires a different eye. In other words, it’s no longer just cocaine problem impacting half the league.

An example of how the league has evolved on their stance, here’s what current and former NBA commissioners had to say about marijuana

“My personal view is that (marijuana) should be regulated.” Silver said. “In the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management.” And here’s former NBA Commissioner David Stern “I’m now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the banned list.” Stern told Al Harrington on Uninterrupted.

We know that posts like this can be viewed as a completely negative view of the league, so we’d like to give big respect to the NBA players, the vast majority of whom understand what’s acceptable and not acceptable under the policy. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, it seemed as if it was a indefinite ban from the league or nothing. Today, it’s more likely that if a player is suspended it’s for a handful of games than a life sentence.

To learn more about the NBA’s Anti-Drug Policy, the history and thresholds, go here.

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