The rugby league future of Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden is in serious doubt after he was provisionally suspended by the NRL under its Anti-Doping Policy.
24-year-old Naden was drug tested by Sport Integrity Australia after Penrith’s Grand Final loss to Melbourne in October, and has returned a positive A-sample for metabolites of cocaine.
Cocaine is prohibited in-competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.
“Mr Naden is prohibited from participating in any WADA compliant sport, including rugby league, while the provisional suspension is in place,” the NRL said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Under the Anti-Doping Policy, Mr Naden now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.”
The dramatic turn of events comes after Naden voluntarily commenced a program at a rehabilitation facility soon after the Grand Final, after admitting to the club he had used a recreational drug.
“Brent recently completed that program and continues to address his personal issues with the support of his family and Panthers staff,” the Panthers said in a statement.
“Working closely with Brent through this process, the club believes he has the capacity to overcome his personal issues and realise his potential. Panthers will continue to provide Brent and his family the support they need moving forward.”
Naden was the subject of much talk during the NRL Finals after he was dropped to the bench for the Preliminary Final against Souths and the Grand Final against Melbourne, despite holding down a spot in the starting side for much of the season.
At the time, it was reported that the Panthers were trying to plug potential defensive issues that emerged after the side’s first Finals match against the Roosters.
It is understood Naden has been based in his home town of Wellington in country NSW since exiting the rehabilitation facility last month.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.