Could Ben Barba escape his drugs ban?

Ben Barba drugs ban

So, St Helens have lodged an appeal against Ben Barba’s 12-match drugs ban which has been transferred over to Super League from the NRL.

The club feel they have grounds to appeal as had Barba been caught taking non-performance enhancing drugs out-of-season in the UK, he would have escaped suspension.

However, we could be about to set a very dangerous precedent.

When Barba tested positive for cocaine use just four days after Cronulla’s 2016 Premiership triumph, he broke a strict NRL protocol.

The Sharks showed no hesitation in sacking their star full-back after he was handed a 12-game ban for the offence by the NRL.

Barba then checked himself into rehab and was prepared to serve the full punishment – he had no choice!

But soon after Rugby Union side Toulon came in and offered him a lifeline – in a different sport with no suspension to serve.

Four months later and after things didn’t quite work out in France, Barba looked at a return to league and in particular Super League.

St Helens, under new head coach Justin Holbrook, showed no hesitation and quickly signed Barba as a marquee player after he watched his new side impress at Magic Weekend.

He started training with the Saints on Monday and will have his appeal heard next week by an Independent Operational Rules Tribunal.

Despite an RFL spokesman stating in January that any NRL drugs ban would be carried over into Super League, it now looks as though there may be a loophole.

Although the RFL recognised the NRL ban, the hearing will be taking place under the governing body’s Operational Rules.

This could mean that because Barba was caught taking non-performance enhancing drugs out-of-season in the UK, he could walk away scot-free in Super League.

If the 28-year-old is given the all clear then I, like many, will be left wondering what kind of example we are trying to set in our sport.

When it comes to enforcing each competition’s bans, the NRL and Super League have always held a ‘gentlemen’s agreement.’

“The NRL and the RFL recognise each other’s suspensions and we believe the English rugby league will seek to enforce the ban,” an NRL spokesman said.

Despite this, I’m left worried that the RFL are considering an appeal against a player who was clearly found guilty of taking cocaine.

We risk putting the integrity of our sport in jeopardy by allowing someone who has clearly broke one of the strictest rules in our game.

If Barba walks away with no ban next week, we will be set a very bad example for children who want to play Rugby League in this country.

We just have to hope that, for once, common sense prevails.