UPDATE @ 9.00AM: The NRL has announced Ben Barba has been hit with a 12-match suspension after returning a positive drug test.
The punishment is automatic as it is his second positive sample under the NRL’s illicit drug testing program, his first was back in 2015.
Head of Integrity, Nick Weeks confirmed Barba’s second positive sample was not related to performance enhancing drugs and it had been recorded after the Grand Final.
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As a result of the second contravention, Barba must serve a mandatory 12 match suspension.
Given Barba has been released from his current contract, the suspension will apply if he returns to the NRL in the future.
Mr Weeks said the NRL is working with the club to offer support for Barba and his family.
“The League will continue to extend support to Ben Barba but this should serve as a warning to all players of one of the potential consequences of using illicit drugs,” Mr Weeks said.
UPDATE @ 7.30AM: The Cronulla Sharks have confirmed they have granted Ben Barba an immediate release from his playing contract in order for him to “address some significant personal issues”.
The news comes amid reports the star tested positive to cocaine four days after the NRL club’s historic Grand Final win.
“I know and accept I need to take some time away from the game to deal with some personal issues. I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don’t address them now I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family. As footballers we often find it hard to speak up about having problems, but this decision has lifted so much pressure off myself that I cannot start to explain just how much better I feel by taking this action,” Barba said in the statement.
“I hope to return to the game at some stage and am very grateful for the support of the Cronulla Sharks and I hope that one day I can again play beside this terrific bunch of guys. I have made some tremendous friendships both within the playing ranks and throughout the coaching and administration teams. This has made it all the more difficult to make this decision but it’s something I just had to do.”
Club CEO Lyall Gorman said it was an incredibly difficult situation for Ben, his family and the Club.
“Ben has made a remarkable contribution to our Club and community since joining it. It is however something we believe and accept is absolutely necessary in order to assist Ben to work through the challenges at hand,” he said.
“While Ben will be a major loss to our football club, the far greater priority is for him to focus on his long term future away from football and we will continue to support Ben throughout that process in any way we can.
“As this is a very challenging time for Ben and his family, Ben would appreciate if they were allowed to work through this very private matter.”
EARLIER @ 4.25AM: Explosive allegations have emerged on Tuesday morning that Cronulla Sharks star Ben Barba tested positive to cocaine following grand final celebrations.
The Daily Telegraph reports the fullback was tested four days after the Sharks history-making victory over Melbourne Storm.
It’s believed he could face up to 12 weeks on the sidelines from the beginning of next season.
According to the report, Barba and the club were notified by the NRL of the positive result two weeks ago and the star is now on his way to a rehabilitation facility in Thailand.
It is the second time he has tested positive to recreational drugs, which means he would be hit with an automatic 12-match suspension under the NRL drugs policy.
However, there were suggestions last night Barba would be lodging an appeal.
The NRL and Cronulla Sharks are yet to make an official comment about the claims.