On the eve of the Grand Final in 2017, Zak Hardaker was banned after testing positive for a banned substance earlier that season.
In a twist of fate, his test came against Leeds Rhinos in the league weeks before they met in the Grand Final.
Hardaker spoke about this ban on the Fully Game podcast and when asked if he thinks UK Anti-Doping knew that that week he had taken the substance he said:
“I don’t know, I’ve heard some rumours. I’d seen them at half time because they’ve always got a press badge and it says UKAD in massive letters.
“It’s quite rare you see them before a game or during a game because you’re not meant to see that they’re coming. I played well that game as well and because it was against Leeds I didn’t want to drop out.
“I just said to myself ‘I’m stupid enough to have done it at the time so I’ve got to deal with the consequences’ and that’s exactly what I did. I could have tried to get out and fake injury and when I spoke to my Mum after she was asking why I didn’t, but what am I going to get out of that? I’ve f***ed up, if they’re going to get me then that’s how it works.”
Hardaker explained that he thought he had gotten away with it:
“I’d had two days, I wasn’t sure if it was still in my system and apparently you get told two weeks after a game so after two weeks I was thinking that I’d got away with it.
“I’m trying to be as normal as possible during the test. I’m chatting to the guy who is doing the test, but in the back of my mind I know I’m f***ed.
“I had it (anxiety) for about three or four weeks, social anxiety was through the roof. I didn’t want to see anyone or talk about anything, it was just do training and come home.
“I had a tiny bit of faith and then as soon as the two week mark went by it started creeping up a little bit, then three weeks went by and it’s creeping up. Then we play Saints in the semi-final and it’s five weeks.
“I’d not heard anything, it’d been five weeks which is quite long so that week leading up to Saints semi-final I’m thinking that I must have got by.
“We beat Saints on the Friday and I was up for the Man of Steel award the following week on the Tuesday night. So this is the week leading up to the Grand Final and I’m thinking that I’d managed to get away with it.
“Then Wednesday morning Daryl Powell rings up and when it all comes out I’d turned up to the Man of Steel awards on Tuesday but the RFL knew on Monday that I was banned.
“So I’m at an event with all the RFL people up for the best player of the competition, everyone knows I’m banned and then I didn’t know until Thursday.
“The dreaded awful phone call on the Thursday, I’d never want anyone to experience that. It’s like my life in a nut shell, up here then down there.”