The Legal Affairs head of FIBA, Atty. Benjamin Cohen has informed the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Smart Gilas national team in Wuhan, China that pending the receipt of documents needed regarding Fil-Ams Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz FIBA cannot rule on the eligibility of the two players which was questioned by Lebanon at the FIBA Asia Men’s basketball championships.
The individual who has caused the trouble is FIBA Asia deputy secretary general Hagop Khajirian who is himself a Lebanese and is running the affairs in the absence of Datu Yeoh of Malaysia who is ill.
FIBA is not saying that Lassiter and Lutz are ineligible but according to Cohen that before they can make a ruling there documents still needed which they claim have not been submitted.
Cohen and FIBA Asia have gotten it all wrong when they misinterpret and mix-up FIBA’s Internal Regulations.
The rule FIBA is referring to is Article 3 (21) which covers the choice of citizenship for those eligible for dual citizenship. Under this rule at the age of 16 the players should have in effect made a declaration that they wanted to play for the Philippines.
However, former FIBA Asia secretary general Moying Martelino has clearly pointed out that “the documents required to be submitted referred to Articler3 (21) of the internal regulations. This article has reference to naturalized players .”
However, in the case of Lassiter and Lutz they are covered by Article 3 (16) which refers to players with two or more nationalities. It states “any player with two legal nationalities or more by birth or by naturalization will choose at any age the national team for which he will play.”
Martelino insisted “these two guys were never naturalized, they are natural born” under the provisions of the Philippine Constitution.
Martelino also took issue with an internal regulation approved in 2010 which prevented national federations whose appeals have been denied by FIBA from elevating the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Martelino who served FIBA Asia for many years said “It is in the general by laws of FIBA that any case can be elevated to the CAS and that is the final court. All member federations were asked to include this provision in their own Constitution and By Laws.”
It seems, according to Martelino, that Lebanon “is scared of the Philippines.” He added “ You have to fight fair and square.”
At the same time he accused FIBA Asia’s deputy secretary general Hagob of “feeding FIBA with wrong information.”
Martelino said he would sit down with SBP executive director Sonny Barrios and a lawyer to send a formal letter to FIBA in the proper legal language.