Rugby league star banned for 14 months over cocaine use

Zak Hardaker was sacked by Castleford in February.

Hardaker was sacked by Castleford in February.
Hardaker was sacked by Castleford in February.
Image: Gareth Copley

FORMER CASTLEFORD FULLBACK Zak Hardaker has been banned for 14 months after testing positive for cocaine, UK Anti-Doping announced today.

The 26-year-old will not appeal against the punishment, which has been backdated to September 2017, when he tested positive for the drug.

The decision means Hardaker will be free to join a new club in November.

Castleford announced in February that the fullback had been sacked with four years left on his contract.

The Tigers initially suspended Hardaker in October after dropping the England international for the Super League Grand Final against Leeds, the club he left for Castleford in a loan deal in 2016.

“Mr Hardaker tested positive for the presence of the prohibited substance benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, following an in-competition test on 8 September 2017, at a match between Castleford Tigers RLFC and Leeds Rhinos RLFC,” said a statement from UKAD.

UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said: “Regardless of how it got there, every athlete is solely responsible for what is in their system and must adhere to the strict liability principle. They must ensure that they take the appropriate steps to manage the risk at all times.”

Hardaker has been in trouble before, axed from the England squad during the 2013 World Cup due to a breach of discipline that earned him a final warning from Leeds.

He served a five-match ban in 2014 for a homophobic insult towards a referee and in 2015, after being detained and questioned on suspicion of assault, he was forced to pay compensation and write a letter of apology to the victim.

The player’s legal team released a statement earlier.

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“We believe the correct verdict has been returned and we would like to thank the Tribunal for their professionalism. This was a truly exceptional case, where the drug use was never linked to performance enhancement,” it read.

“In this regard Zak would never take any substance to achieve an unfair advantage. He was commended by the Tribunal for his impressive comprehensive evidence and the fact that he made no attempt to downplay his conduct and was utterly frank with them.”

© AFP 2018

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