A ROUGHYEDS player tested positive for cocaine and was banned last year, it has been revealed.

Ireland international Danny Bridge is however free to resume his career after a change to the World Anti-Doping Agency rules on taking recreational drugs.

The second-rower has been with Roughyeds since 2018 but is not one of the 26 players the club have confirmed have signed for the 2021 season and beyond.

The Rugby Football League and UK Anti-Doping announced on Tuesday that Bridge had tested positive after Roughyeds’ game with Whitehaven last February.

He was banned for two years but as of January 1, WADA’s new code on taking ‘a substance of abuse’ means if an athlete can prove the drug was taken out of competition with no intention to enhance performance then the suspension can be reduced to three months.

That has been the case with Oldham-born Bridge, and six other athletes in different sports, and he is now deemed to have served his ban.

Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton said: “As a club, we fully support both UKAD and the Rugby Football League in their stance in removing drugs from sport.

“The club takes a strong anti-drugs line and does not approve of any player taking recreational drugs. We expect our players to avoid use of any illegal drug.

 "As a club, we have continued to support Danny throughout this difficult time and we thank the RFL and Rugby League Cares for their support also."

RFL chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse supported the change in regulations.

She said: “We certainly don’t approve of players using recreational drugs, far from it. But we do welcome the distinction between performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs taken out of competition and without intention to improve performance.

“UKAD’s priority, with our support, is to catch those who cheat and deal with them accordingly. However, we recognise that there are often underlying reasons why people use recreational drugs. A lengthy ban does additional harm to people already potentially suffering from wider personal problems.

“These players can still expect a ban, but with education and rehabilitation programmes in place, their careers may be resumed after serving their bans. 

“Whilst we welcome the changes, all rugby league players are reminded that taking any prohibited substance is a breach of the rules and could be a criminal offence.

“Any time away from the sport can still harm a career and have long-lasting implications. When it comes to competing, we also want all players to make well informed and positive decisions, to stay clean and avoid illegal drugs.”

Others benefiting from the landmark change are rugby union players Lance Randall (Ebbw Vale) and Adam Hoskins (Merthyr), basketball player AJ Roberts, cross country runner Luke Traynor and former Hibs footballer Conner Duthie.