The NRL has suspended Ben Barba for 12 games, after returning his second positive sample relating to illicit drugs.
Barba has already been released from his playing contract by the Cronulla Sharks, so the suspension would only apply if he was to return to the NRL.
The 2012 Dally M Medal winner’s first breach of the NRL’s illicit drug policy was believed to be outside the NRL competition period in 2015, and he becomes the third player to be suspended under the program.
“The league will continue to extend support to Ben Barba but this should serve as a warning to all players of one of the potential consequences of using illicit drugs,” Head of Integrity, Nick Weeks said.
Barba returned a positive sample after he was tested for cocaine four days after Cronulla’s maiden grand final win according to News Corp Australia. He has left for a Thailand rehabilitation centre and said “I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don’t address them now I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family.”
“As footballers we often find it hard to speak up about having problems, but this decision has lifted so much pressure off myself that I cannot start to explain just how much better I feel by taking this action.”
His career has been plagued by alcohol, gambling and personal issues, and he has spent time in rehab before, after being stood down by Canterbury in 2013.