Zak Hardaker will be free to return to Rugby League in 2019 after receiving a 14-month drugs suspension.
The former Castleford and England star tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine following a drugs test in the aftermath of Castleford’s win over Leeds Rhinos last year.
As a result, Hardaker will be eligible to return to the sport as of November 7 of this year, with a move to Wigan Warriors now set to be completed.
Hardaker is a free agent after being sacked by Castleford following the incident.
UKAD’s full verdict claims that Hardaker took the substance on September 6th of 2017, two days before Castleford played Leeds Rhinos. It claims the 26-year-old took “four or five” lines of cocaine after heavily drinking.
The report claims the date coincided with the first anniversary of a significance to Hardaker. As a result, he went out drinking with a friend, and the report claims he drank 6-7 pints of lager before sharing a litre of vodka and a litre of whisky. He then continued to drink spirits before being offered cocaine.
Hardaker was represented by Sam Pawson (Associate) and Nils O’Donoghue (Partner), solicitors specialising in Sports Law at Chadwick Lawrence in Leeds. They worked alongside leading Sports Law Barrister, Daniel Saoul.
Zak’s legal team successfully argued that, as a result of a number of exceptional circumstances, the 26-year-old, former England player, bore no significant fault in committing an ADVR.
The legal team at Chadwick Lawrence commented: “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.
“In this regard Zak would never take any substance to achieve an unfair advantage and we are pleased that the decision of the Tribunal has recognised this fact.
“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.
“The last 2 years have been an extremely difficult period for Zak who, away from the public eye, has bravely battled a number of personal traumas.
“Zak has asked for privacy at this time but thanked his family and close friends for helping him through this difficult period.”