NRL star Brent Naden is free to return to training in the new year after serving a one-month ban for cocaine use.
The ban was only announced on Tuesday, but has been backdated after the Penrith centre was provisionally suspended at the start of December.
Naden tested positive to cocaine in the aftermath of Melbourne’s grand final win over the Panthers. Although he will be back in action with his Panthers teammates in January as they prepare for the new season, The Daily Telegraph reports the NRL Integrity Unit is still in the process of conducting its own investigation that may include looking at whether Naden breached the league’s strict biosecurity bubble.
The NRL released a statement explaining Naden’s punishment, which takes into account the fact he did not take illicit substances for performance-enhancing reasons.
“Having established that the ingestion of the cocaine was out-of-competition and not for performance enhancing purposes, Naden is sanctioned in accordance with new provisions of the incoming World Anti-Doping Code 2021 which permit a one-month period of ineligibility for qualifying athletes who also undertake an approved rehabilitation program,” the NRL said.
“In accordance with the WADA Code, Naden’s one-month period of suspension is backdated to the date of his provisional suspension and he will be eligible to return to training and competition on 1 January 2021.
“The sanction issued to Naden concerns the anti-doping breach only and any other related matters will be reviewed in the new year.”
Naden will be free to train in January.Source:Getty Images
The Panthers released a statement of their own, saying Naden understands the seriousness of his breach.
“Brent has come to understand the significant impact of his actions on his family, our club and the game of Rugby League,” Penrith said. “He similarly understands how fortunate he is to have the opportunity to return to the NRL in 2021.
“With the support of Panthers staff and his family, Brent continues to work through his personal issues with a view to reaching his full potential on and off the field.
“We anticipate he will return to Panthers pre-season training following the completion of his suspension.”
In November, Naden was voluntarily admitted into a rehab facility to deal with a reported issue with alcohol.
At the time the Panthers confirmed Naden had reached out to club officials to seek help for “personal issues”.
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