Zak Hardaker banned for 14 months for testing positive for cocaine but is free to resume playing in November

FORMER Castleford full-back Zak Hardaker has been banned for 14 months by UK Anti-Doping for failing a drugs test.

The 26-year-old will not appeal against the punishment, which has been backdated to September 2017, when he tested positive for cocaine.

 Zak Hardaker has been banned for 14 months after testing positive for cocaine

PA:Press Association
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Zak Hardaker has been banned for 14 months after testing positive for cocaine

The decision means Hardaker will be free to join a new club in November.

Castleford announced in February that Hardaker had been sacked with four years left on his contract.

The Tigers initially suspended Hardaker last October after dropping the England international for the Super League Grand Final against Leeds, the club he left for Castleford in a loan deal in 2016.

He joined the club on a permanent contract for a fee of £150,000 in June with Daryl Powell's side cruising to League Leaders' Shield success.

Former Castleford Tigers rugby league full-back Zak Hardaker dances as he trains

 Zak Hardaker is now free to resume his rugby league career with a new club in November

PA:Press Association
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Zak Hardaker is now free to resume his rugby league career with a new club in November

But in September he failed a drugs test after a Super 8s game against the Rhinos.

In a statement following his suspension, Hardaker said: “I would like to apologise to my team-mates, the staff and all fans for my enormous error of judgement.

“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."

And after a one-day hearing, his solicitors have revealed the 26-year-old had been dealing with personal issues off the field before his failed test.

A spokesman for Chadwick Lawrence solicitors said: “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 two years have been an extremely difficult period for Zak who, away from the public eye, has bravely battled a number of personal traumas.”

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FORMER Castleford full-back Zak Hardaker has been banned for 14 months by UK Anti-Doping for failing a drugs test.