Denton: Hedo Turkoglu Suspended For 20 Games

By John Denton
February 13, 2013

ORLANDO – Out injured in 10 of the last 11 regular-season games last April and hurt another 28 games early this season, Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu hoped that things would finally take a turn for the better for him in 2013.

Instead, the 13-year NBA veteran’s run of bad luck continued on Wednesday. The NBA announced on Wednesday that Turkoglu had been suspended the next 20 games without pay for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for methenolone. Turkoglu’s suspension began with Wednesday’s game and he won’t be eligible to return until March 26.

Turkoglu, who has played in just 11 games this season because of injuries and illnesses, claims he took the anabolic steroid over the summer while back in Turkey in an attempt to recover from a shoulder injury. Turkoglu claimed that he didn’t know that methenolone was on the banned substances list. Turkoglu said he was drug-tested in December, he was notified of irregularities last week and he was informed of his suspension by the NBA on Tuesday.

``It was in Turkey in the summer time, and I was battling a shoulder injury throughout my workouts and I took something that I shouldn’t have been taking,’’ said Turkoglu, who turns 34 next month. ``I should have double-searched or researched it and I shouldn’t be in this situation right now. It’s a mistake to learn (about) what I am facing right now. I’m really sorry to put myself in this position and the organization too.’’

Turkoglu said repeatedly on Wednesday that in no way was he attempting to take a substance that would improve his performance on the basketball court. Turkoglu claimed he took the substance to combat pain in his shoulder.

``I just want people to know that I never took any kind of pills or drugs to be an athlete to perform better,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I never used substances in my life. I never did it (before), but I was going through a shoulder injury and at that time I was just trying to take care of that. It was summer time, I used it for a short period of time and that was it.’’

The 20-game suspension will cost Turkoglu, who is making $11.8 million this season, approximately $2.15 million. Turkloglu is signed through the 2013-14 season, but his contract is only partially guaranteed. During the suspension, he will not be allowed to be around the team or the Amway Center on game nights.

Turkoglu is averaging a career-worst 2.9 points per game. He is shooting just 26.4 percent from the field and he has made just one of 24 3-point attempts. He said the combination of the injuries from last season and this season, his slippage on the court and his suspension has taken a toll on him.

``It’s been a nightmare. I’ve been facing surgery and in the summer time I was dealing with the shoulder injury and the beginning of the year I was dealing with the hand year, so it hasn’t been a very good year for me,’’ Turkoglu said. ``Right now, I’m facing this (suspension) and it’s sad. As a player you face a lot of injuries and it comes and goes. But this kind of situation, you don’t want to put yourself in. This (suspension) is the worst one I’m dealing with.’’

Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan believes that Turkoglu’s mistake was accidental. He also pointed out that the Magic are stringent about educating players about what substances and supplements are on the banned list.

Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis also was suspended at the start of the 2009-10 season for testing positive for a banned substance. Hennigan said the two situations are totally different.

``There is a list of all of the banned substances that the NBA regulates and our medical staff does a diligent job of communicating, expressing and informing our players as to what should or shouldn’t be put in their body,’’ Hennigan said. ``Our Athletic Trainer, Keon (Weise), is someone who routinely informs the players of that list. It’s a list hanging up in our locker room. So clearly, Hedo made a mistake, knows he made a mistake and he’s owning it. It’s certainly a disappointing circumstance for us, but I personally feel very confident in the amount of diligence that we use to inform our players as to what can and cannot be taken.

``And along the lines of what Hedo has said, this can be a good lesson for our players to understand that you can never be too careful about knowing what you are putting into your body, especially when you are in the offseason and you aren’t with the team,’’ Hennigan continued. ``It’s imperative to know what you are doing.’’

Turkoglu, the second-longest-tenured player on the Magic, is in his second stint with the organization. He spent five seasons with Orlando from 2004-09, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2008 and leading the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009.

He signed a free-agent deal with Toronto in 2009 and was traded to Phoenix a season later. The Magic reacquired Turkoglu midway through the 2010-11 season in a blockbuster trade involving Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and others. Turkoglu said he hopes he can get beyond the suspension and his career continues in Orlando for years to come.

``I had my best years in Orlando, so I will always try to play as much as I can here,’’ Turkoglu said. ``In certain situations (regarding the future), it’s not in my hands. We’ll wait for the summer comes and see what happens. Right now, I just want to deal with this and hopefully get it over as quickly as I can.’’

Turkoglu has experienced a down year because of some bad luck with injuries. He showed up to training camp in great shape and head coach Jacque Vaughn raved about his versatility and basketball smarts.

But Turkoglu fractured the fifth metacarpal in his left hand in the third quarter of the season-opening game, an injury that knocked him out of action for the next eight weeks. A day after injuring his hand, Turkoglu had surgery and a metal plate and screw were inserted to promote stability. A setback midway through the recovery resulted in Turkoglu’s hand needing to be recast and delaying his return.

Turkoglu finally returned to action on Dec. 29, but his play has fallen off dramatically since rejoining the Magic. In his first five games back he averaged just 3.6 points, leading the Magic to sit him out for the next nine games as attempted to recover further.

He played in five games in late January and early February, but still had little success. Over those games, Turkoglu made just four of 21 shots and missed all 12 of his tries from 3-point range.

Turkoglu said his years of experience as a professional player in Europe and in the NBA should have taught him to check the banned substance list for the drug prior to taking it.

``I’ve been a pro all my life and I have been playing professionally for 17 years,’’ he said. ``I’ve always been honest and loyal with what I have done in any situation. But this thing I didn’t want to do. But at that time I was trying to prepare myself and I did things I shouldn’t have done so I wouldn’t be in this situation.’’

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