Castleford Tigers have confirmed that it has now received notification that Zak Hardaker has tested positive for a banned substance following a Super 8s match against Leeds Rhinos on September 8, 2017.
The club was made aware at 10am on Thursday morning that the player would receive official written notification from UK Anti-Doping and therefore the player was immediately suspended. Official notification was delivered on Friday and following discussions with the player on Sunday the decision was taken to announce the result of the test today in order to clarify the circumstances around Zak’s omission.
Zak Hardaker said: “I would like to apologise to my Castleford Tigers team-mates, the staff and all fans for my enormous error of judgment. I was given an opportunity by this great club and in what has been one of the most important weeks in its history, I have let everyone at the club down. For that, I truly apologise.
“Finally, I would like to make it clear that in no way did I, nor would I, ever take a substance with the intention of enhancing my performance.”
Castleford Tigers will be making no further comment until the outcome of the case has been determined.
Hardaker could be suspended for two years as a result of his positive test.
Hardaker was one of three nominations for Super League’s Man of Steel award, having scored 13 tries in 30 games as Tigers won the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time, and was expected to be named in the England squad for the upcoming World Cup in Australia before the test results came through.
News of Hardaker’s indiscretion was announced on Thursday, when Castleford said he had been left out of their Grand Final squad because of a “breach of club rules”.
Speaking after Saturday’s 24-6 defeat by Leeds at Old Trafford, head coach Daryl Powell said: “I still thought we had a team out there that could have won the game if we’d played anywhere near our potential.
“But if you take a player like him out of any team, it’s going to be a disruption.
“You take your full-back out two days before the game, and you have one session of preparation - it’s clearly not going to help.
“It is what it is. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about that.”
Hardaker joined Castleford on an initial loan deal for 2017 that was later made permanent, after a stint in Australia with Penrith Panthers.
That brought his six-year spell at Leeds to an end and reunited Hardaker with head coach Daryl Powell, who gave him his break at Featherstone Rovers.
At Leeds, Hardaker won three Grand Finals, a Challenge Cup winner’s medal and the 2015 Man of Steel prize.
But his on-field brilliance has been marred by off-field problems throughout his career.
He missed out on the 2013 World Cup and was fined by Leeds after he “acted unprofessionally”, before going on an anger management course following an incident in Leeds during the 2015 season.