POC president says decision to withdraw 'more than just about team composition'

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas respects the decision of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to pull out the national basketball team from the 2018 Asian Games.

Vargas understands that the national basketball federation chose to shift its focus to the future, building up to the country's hosting of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

"I appreciate what the SBP is doing. They are looking forward to strengthening the future," said Vargas. "I also understand the fans' disappointment but this is the time to look at the long-term plans rather than the short-term."

Vargas said that the decision to withdraw from the Asian Games was more than just about the team composition.

The SBP and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) earlier announced that the Asiad-bound team will be composed of a core of Rain or Shine players, Gilas cadets, Andray Blatche, and potentially Jordan Clarkson.

Coach Yeng Guiao also had a list of PBA players in mind who can complement the squad, but prior to finalizing the lineup, the SBP decided Thursday night to withdraw from the quadrennial meet instead.

"We were all set to send a team to the Asian Games. But for reasons other than the composition of the team, they thought otherwise maybe it's best not to send," Vargas explained. "In principle, in concept, in taking one step back and building up for the future, it was a difficult and unpopular decision for the SBP but they had to make that decision."

The initial plan was to send a core of TNT players but everything changed after FIBA handed out suspensions on Gilas players, including TNT's Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, and Roger Pogoy. While the sanctions do not apply to the Asian Games, SBP and the PBA decided not to send the suspended players to not further compound the issue.

"What happened was really unfortunate. This completely changed the perspective of everything that we wanted to do," Vargas said.

Vargas, who also sits as chairman of the PBA board, added that the league will always be willing to cooperate with the SBP in forming national teams for future tournaments.

"In the PBA, we were always ready, that's why Rain or Shine was ready to go," he said. "The PBA is just here to help. I know their decision is very complex, difficult, and not popular. But it is what it is."

Possible fine for sudden pull-out

Vargas said the POC expects the country will incur financial penalties.

While the POC has not yet communicated SBP's decision to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Indonesian Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC), Vargas said they are already bracing for possible fines.

"There is a sanction in terms of monetary. What I don't know is if there's a sanction outside of the fine," Vargas told reporters via phone interview on Friday.

Under OCA's constitution and rules, withdrawal of an entry without consent shall be subjected to disciplinary actions.

Section 10 of Article 57 states: "The withdrawal of a duly entered delegation, Team or Athletes without the consent of the OCA, shall be the subject of disciplinary action as envisaged by the EB (Executive Board)."

According to the same by-laws, the EB can impose "financial and other penalties on any NOC (National Olympic Committee) which withdraws its team as a whole from team competitions after the draw is completed. The penalty will be decided by the EB, on a case by case basis."

Vargas assured that the rest of the Philippine delegation will not be affected by this sudden pull-out.

"This is purely an NSA (National Sports Association) decision. It should not affect the other sports," he said. "We do understand and appreciate the specific reasons cited by the SBP."