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Oldham forward cleared after drug rule changes

Oldham forward Danny Bridge has been cleared to return to rugby league following a change in punishment to drug charges.

Bridge, 27, tested positive for cocaine following Oldham’s match with Whitehaven in February 2020. He was subsequently banned by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) for two years.

WADA issued an updated version of its World Anti-Doping Code on 1 January, which includes certain changes in respect of recreational drugs.

Under the new rules, individuals who take a ‘substance of abuse’ (a definition which includes recreational drugs such as cocaine) and can establish that the drug was taken ‘out of competition’ with no intention to ‘enhance performance’, can apply to have their bans reduced to three months.

Those who agree to a process of rehabilitation could also have their bans reduced further to just one month.

As Bridge was originally banned more than eight months ago and was able to demonstrate that his offence occurred out of competition without attempting to improve his performance, he is now able to resume his career.

RFL Chief Regulatory Officer, Karen Moorhouse, says: “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.

“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.”

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