What next for Martin Gleeson?

At his peak Martin Gleeson was widely regarded as the most gifted centre in the northern hemisphere.

While Great Britain three-quarter partner Keith Senior offered power and brawn, Gleeson provided stealth and grace.

Senior, now 35, is desperate to prolong his playing career for as long as possible, yet for Gleeson, four years his junior, it seems the end is nigh.

The three-year ban handed down to Gleeson by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) almost certainly spells the end of his association with Super League.

Eighteen months of the ban will be suspended and it will also be backdated to June, meaning Gleeson could resume playing in November 2012.

But it is increasingly difficult to see a way back.

Gleeson’s professional and moral character has been significantly damaged, possibly beyond repair.

He is not the first player professional sportsman to break anti-doping laws and he will not be the last.

But the duplicitous nature of what happened following his positive test for the stimulant methylhexaneamine has cast a dark shadow over rugby league.

Together with former Hull FC chief executive James Rule and conditioning coach Ben Cooper, Gleeson conspired to cover up the truth by lying to UKAD.

Their behaviour is in complete contrast to many of the values rugby league prides itself on.

Gleeson has endured a tough few years. He was convicted of drink driving, found guilty of breaching club discipline and allegedly received death threats after being targeted by blackmailers.

His on-field contributions have become secondary to his battles off the pitch.

It is unclear quite what the future holds for the former St Helens, Warrington and Wigan centre.  

In cases like this there is often little sympathy for the sportsman.  Gleeson was living the dream, a professional athlete who was paid a good wage and adored by supporters.

Many will want the game to wash its hands of the 31-year-old yet to banish Gleeson into the wilderness would be the wrong move. 

He has given great service to the game and now, at his lowest point, he needs and deserves the support and encouragement of the rugby league community.

Gleeson’s actions and subsequent behaviour are abhorrent but he was a special talent who lit up Super League for over a decade.

Lessons can be learned from this situation and shared with the next generation of Martin Gleeson’s to ensure they do not follow similar paths.

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