Hawks’ John Collins suspended 25 games for drug violation

Atlanta Hawks player John Collins during an interview at State Farm Arena, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Atlanta.  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Credit: Branden Camp

Credit: Branden Camp

Atlanta Hawks player John Collins during an interview at State Farm Arena, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

John Collins has been suspended without pay for 25 games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA anti-drug program, the NBA announced Tuesday. The Hawks power forward tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2 (GHRP-2).

Collins’ suspension will begin with Tuesday night’s game against the Spurs. He will be eligible to return Dec. 23 at the Cavaliers. While suspended, Collins can still practice and travel with the team, but beginning two hours before the Hawks play a game, Collins can’t be in the arena, per coach Lloyd Pierce.

According to Pierce, what Collins took was without the team’s knowledge.

“Unfortunate,” Pierce said of his reaction to Collins’ suspension, which he said he learned of Tuesday morning. “Obviously you want to know why, you want to know how, you want to know what. I’m unfamiliar to any of the banned substance things, still don’t really know what it was and what it does. All I know is it’s not supposed to have been taken and he failed the test and that’s where the suspension comes, and there’s a whole process behind it.

“Still learning a little bit about that process. But now it’s how do we address it, how do we move forward and what’s the plan to help John during this time. You’re disappointed, you’re sad for the team. You feel for John. He’s not in a good place. It’s how do we help him and how do we help those other guys.”

In a statement provided by the Hawks, Collins apologized, said he took a supplement that unknown to him had been “contaminated with an illegal component” and announced he plans to appeal the suspension.

"First I want to apologize to my teammates, the Hawks organization, our fans, partners and community as a whole for this situation,” the statement read. “I understand the impact this matter has on what we are trying to achieve together this season, and I am incredibly frustrated and disappointed in myself for putting all us in this position. I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement, which unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component.

“I plan to appeal my suspension in arbitration so I can get back on the court as soon as possible and continue to contribute to our 2019-20 campaign.”

The Hawks also provided a statement from president of basketball operations and general manager Travis Schlenk, who said he and Pierce both believe that Collins is remorseful.

“On behalf of the entire Hawks organization, we are disappointed to learn that John put himself in an unfortunate situation and violated the league’s anti-drug policy,” the statement from Schlenk read. “We hold ourselves and each of our players to a high standard, and we are committed to supporting John as he learns from this setback and continues to grow as both a player and a person.

“Head Coach Lloyd Pierce and I have both talked to him and we believe that he is truly remorseful for his actions. We will provide John with support on and off the court while we look forward to his return to the team.”

GHRP-2 is a synthetic chemical of ghrelin, a hormone that is produced and released mainly by the stomach. Ghrelin has been shown to have two major effects, stimulating both growth hormone secretion and appetite/meal initiation. It has been called the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.

Collins will forfeit about $610,000 for the 25-game suspension.

The 22-year-old Collins is entering his third season after the Hawks took him with the No. 19 overall pick in 2017 out of Wake Forest. In five games this season, Collins is averaging 17.0 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Collins is the third NBA player to be suspending for violating the league’s drug policy since the summer, joining the Nets’ Wilson Chandler and the Suns’ Deandre Ayton.

In his absence, the Hawks likely will look to Jabari Parker to take on expanded role. Parker is averaging 13.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game.

Point guard Trae Young spoke with Collins and said he offered his support.

“I did (talk to him),” Young said. “I told him that I’m here for him. I’m here to support him. … It’s tough. I know he didn’t necessarily know that this was going to happen. I feel for my brother, and I’ve got his back.”

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