Israeli Basketball Team to Appeal Ban of American Star Richardson

The manager of a top Israeli professional basketball team has said he will appeal the International Basketball Association (IBA) ban of former American star Micheal Ray Richardson.

The Munich-based IBA was reported Monday to have informed the Israeli Basketball Association that Richardson was ineligible to play in Israel. An Israeli basketball official said no reason was given and that the decision was final.

However, Avraham Hemmo, manager of the Hapoel Ramat Gan team that had signed Richardson, reported that an IBA official told him that Richardson’s two-year ban from the U.S. National Basketball Association was a major factor in the IBA ban.

Richardson, 30, and a former New Jersey Nets star, was barred from the NBA in the midst of last season after testing positively for cocaine three times. He said he had hoped to begin his return to the NBA by playing well in Israel. He reportedly had signed a one-year contract with the Israeli team worth $60,000, after earning $750,000 per year with the Nets. He was to have his debut in Israel Monday night.

The signing caused a storm in Israeli basketball circles. The Jerusalem Post quoted Moshe Weinkranz, coach of the rival Hapoel Tel Aviv, as claiming he refused on ethical grounds to sign Richardson for $40,000. The head of the Knesset Sport Committee, Pinhas Goldstein (Likud), said allowing Israel to field banned athletes is unethical and unsportsmanlike. On the other hand, some sportswriters have contended that Richardson should get his comeback chance in Israel. Hemmo said weekly medical exams had shown Richardson has been drug-free for three months.

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