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Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes suspended 20 games for violating NBA’s anti-drug policy

Apr 19, 2014, 1:54 AM EDT

UPDATE 4-19, 1:54 am: The NBA has confirmed the suspension, just as previously reported. The 20-game suspension begins on Saturday when the Grizzlies take on the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

The positive test was for Tamoxifen, which is on the banned substance list because it can be used as a masking agent for steroid use.

4-18 7:49 pm: On the eve of the NBA playoffs, things just got much more difficult for the Memphis Grizzlies.

This is an odd one, as a cursory search shows that Tamoxifen “treats advanced breast cancer in men and women, and early breast cancer in women. Also may prevent breast cancer in women who are at a high risk because of age, family history, or other factors.”

It appears to be geared toward women specifically, as this WebMD post would seem to indicate. But apparently, it can also be used to mask steroids.

From William Harris of How Stuff Works:

Many breast cancers have receptors for estrogen, a hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body. When estrogen molecules fit into these receptors, like a key fitting into a lock, the malignant cells become activated. Tamoxifen blocks these estrogen receptors, interfering with the cancer’s ability to grow and develop. This is why scientists refer to tamoxifen as an anti-estrogenic agent.

Now let’s turn our attention to a home-run slugger taking steroid injections — usually synthetic testosterone — to grow his muscles. Large doses of the male hormone cause the body to produce additional estrogen. This in turn can result in enlarged breasts, a feature that most power hitters find unappealing. To counteract the effects of estrogen and mask their steroid use, these players may opt to take tamoxifen. That means anti-estrogens don’t really enhance performance, but, because they alleviate symptoms of PEDs, they appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of more than 200 banned substances and methods.

Calathes is in his first year with Memphis, and though casual fans may have no idea who he is, his absence from the first round of the playoffs will hurt the Grizzlies chances.

Calathes has been getting legitimate time in the rotation backing up Mike Conley, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. With him now unavailable, Memphis will likely be forced into playing Knicks castoff Beno Udrih, and that’s a severe downgrade, especially defensively.

Wojnarowski reports that the NBA is expected to make the announcement official late Friday or sometime on Saturday. The Grizzlies open the playoffs in Oklahoma City against the Thunder at 9:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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