Danny Bridge can resume his rugby career

Ireland international Danny Bridge is free to resume his rugby league career after benefiting from rule changes introduced by the World Anti-Doping Agency relating to recreational drug use.

Bridge, 27, tested positive for cocaine after playing for Oldham in their Championship match against Whitehaven last February and was subsequently banned by UK Anti-Doping for two years.

However, WADA brought in a new rule on January 1 which reduces bans to three months if athletes can establish their use of recreational drugs took place out-of-competition and in a context unrelated to sport performance.

UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said: “We are utilising the changes to the code to support athletes with issues arising from recreational drug use.

“The new Substances of Abuse sanctions and its newly-introduced treatment programme will ensure that athletes’ health and well-being are being prioritised where there is no suggestion of the drug being used for performance enhancement.

“Our message is clear. This is in no way a green-light for athletes to use these drugs socially – they are still illegal.

“Three months is still a notable ban from sport and covers all participation including training, which will be valuable time lost for any athlete. We will repeatedly come after athletes who continue to make the wrong choices.”

The RFL says it has amended its anti-doping rules to comply with the new code, which also allows individuals who agree to a process of rehabilitation to have their bans reduced further to just one month.

RFL chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse 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.”

Oldham chairman Christopher 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.”

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