Zak Hardaker had joined Castleford from Leeds on a four-and-a-half-year deal in June 2017

Ex-Castleford Tigers full-back Zak Hardaker has been banned for 14 months for testing positive for cocaine before the 2017 Super League Grand Final.

After a one-day hearing, brought by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), he was charged with committing an anti-doping violation.

A trace of cocaine was found in the 26-year-old’s urine sample after an in-competition test in September.

Hardaker will be banned from all sport until 7 November when he will be free to join a new club.

Castleford dismissed Hardaker in February after his positive test, having previously suspended the England international before the Grand Final, which Tigers lost 24-6 to Leeds Rhinos.

Up until then, he had enjoyed a superb debut season with Cas, helping them to the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time as well as making the Super League’s Man of Steel shortlist.

His suspension also saw him miss the 2017 World Cup in Australia, where England finished runners-up.

In a statement issued by his legal team, Hardaker, who has been linked with a move to Wigan when he is free to play again, accepted the ban and pleaded “a number of exceptional circumstances” for the failed test.

“This was a truly exceptional case, where the drug use was never linked to performance enhancement,” it continued.

“In this regard, Zak would never take any substance to achieve an unfair advantage and we’re pleased the decision has recognised this fact.

“The past two years have been an extremely difficult period for Zak who, away from the public eye, has bravely battled a number of personal traumas.

“He has asked for privacy, but thanked his family and close friends for helping him through this difficult period.”

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