FOSHAN, China -- After the first day of practice for Gilas Pilipinas in Foshan, a FIBA official approached trainer Dexter Aseron. He was holding two sealed envelopes as he told Aseron that the names printed inside would have to undergo random drug testing after their session.
Aseron popped open the first envelope and smiled as he read the name: Kiefer Ravena.
"I expected it," Ravena said. "At least once, I knew I'd be tested here but I welcome it. It's also a chance for me to put everything behind. I made a mistake and learned my lesson. Now I know for sure what the result of that test will be."
The results of the test won't be known for two or three months and Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said the team is only notified if the results are positive.
Ravena was still joking about the situation as he headed into the testing area.
"See you in three years, Coach," he said to Guiao. As his coach for the NLEX Road Warriors, Guiao lost one of his main players during Ravena's suspension.
On May 28, 2018, FIBA announced it was suspending Ravena for 18 months after he tested positive for banned substances following a FIBA Asian Qualifiers game earlier that year. The ban, which was retroactively applied, was lifted just last week. While the void left by Ravena in the FIBA Asian Qualifiers was quickly filled by talented players from the PBA, NLEX had to suffer the brunt of his absence as they struggled to even make the playoffs in the past few conferences without him.
Ravena has been out of action for the past 14 months and his first official game back will be against Italy in the World Cup, a huge challenge for a player who just had a couple practice games upon his return.
"The past months have not been easy," Ravena said about being away from basketball. "But if I had to go through that all over again to play in the World Cup, I'd do it."
Gilas faces Italy on August 31 at 7:30 p.m. local time.