Zak Hardaker has been provisionally suspended from rugby league after failing a drugs test.
Hardaker, a controversial omission from Castleford’s Grand Final squad, provided a positive sample after a drugs test conducted after the Tigers’ Super 8s match with Leeds Rhinos on September 8th.
The RFL were notified by the UK Anti-Doping last week, and as a result the 25-year-old will not be selected for England’s World Cup squad that will be announced on Monday.
Hardaker had enjoyed a fantastic first season with the Tigers after moving to the club from Leeds at the start of the season. The move was made permanent midway through the season, with Castleford paying a transfer fee of £150,000 and signing Hardaker on a four-and-a-half year deal.
But his career is now in serious doubt after the latest revelation, with Hardaker now likely facing a period suspension from the game and will miss some of the peak years of his career.
A statement issued by Castleford said: “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. 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.”
It will be the second time Hardaker has missed out on selection for a World Cup due to off-field misdemeanours.
In 2013, Hardaker withdrew from the England squad after allegedly breaking team curfew following England’s pre-tournament defeat to Italy before being involved in a separate incident. He was subsequently fined by Leeds and issued a public apology.
“I would like to apologise to my Castleford Tigers teammates, the staff and all fans for my enormous error of judgment,” Hardaker said.
“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.
“Finally, I would like to make it clear that in no way did I, nor would I, ever take a substance with the intention of enhancing my performance.”
A statement released by the RFL read: “The Rugby Football League can confirm that Zak Hardaker is provisionally suspended from all competition after it received notification from UK Anti-Doping that he had tested positive for a banned substance following a Super 8s game between Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos on September 8, 2017.
“He will therefore not be considered for the England Rugby League World Cup squad due to be announced today (Monday) at 12pm.
“The Rugby Football League will be making no further comment until the outcome of the case has been determined.”