CASTLEFORD TIGERS fullback Zak Hardaker has been provisionally suspended from all rugby league after tested positive for cocaine.
Hardaker, who finished second in the player of the year voting just last week, was the subject of plenty of rumours before his club’s biggest ever match as he was dropped from the Grand Final squad last Thursday after a breach of club discipline. Cas went on to lose the Grand Final 24-6 to Leeds Rhinos.
Castleford have now released a statement that clarifies events and confirms that, as many suspected, it was a positive drug test that was behind the suspension.
“The club was made aware at 10:00am on Thursday morning that the player would receive official written notification from UK Anti-Doping and therefore the player was immediately suspended,” read the statement.
“Official notification was delivered on Friday and following discussions with the player on Sunday the decision was taken to announce the result of the test today in order to clarify the circumstances around Zak’s omission.”
The failed drug test followed Cas’ win over Leeds in the Super 8s on September 8th. He is provisionally suspended before a hearing can be convened to discuss the matter. If found guilty, the maximum penalty could be a two year suspension from the game.
Hardaker was also expected to be named in the England squad that will be announced at 12 noon UK time, but will now not be considered for selection.
The player, who has had several off-field disciplinary issues in his career, said: “I would like to apologise to my Castleford Tigers teammates, the staff and all fans for my enormous error of judgment.”
“I was given an opportunity by this great club and in what has been one of the most important weeks in its history, I have let everyone at the club down. For that, I truly apologise.”
Hardaker possesses superb on-field abilities but has been beset by off-field problems. He missed the 2013 World Cup after a drink-fuelled brawl on the eve of the tournament, was fined by the RFL for homophobic comments towards an opponent in 2014 and was ordered to attend anger management classes in 2015 after assaulting a student. Leeds released him midway through 2016 and
Leeds released him midway through 2016 and, after a short spell with Penrith Panthers in the NRL, he joined Cas for 2017. He has been a revelation in the most successful season in recent years for the Tigers, but again finds his future uncertain because of an off-field indiscretion.