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Sale Sharks' Pope banned for six months after second drugs violation

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By Reuters

(Reuters) – The Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Tuesday banned Sale Sharks prop Jake Pope for six months following a second violation of their Illicit Drugs Programme.

The RFU said Pope was the first player to have breached the policy for a second time after a drug test in November returned an adverse analytical finding for cannabis and cocaine.

He admitted the violation at an independent disciplinary panel hearing in February, and the ban has been backdated to the day of his provisional suspension on Dec. 4, paving the way for a return in June.

Pope previously admitted a first violation following a test in 2017 and was fined 1,000 pounds although the RFU did not make their finding public as it was a first-time offence.

“The purpose of the Illicit Drugs Policy is primarily to protect the health and welfare of players,” RFU’s Anti-Doping and Illicit Drugs Programme manager Stephen Watkins said in a statement on the governing body’s website.

“This is the first time we have had a second offence since the policy was established in 2010. It should send a strong deterrent message to all players that the RFU takes the misuse of substances seriously.”

Sale described Pope’s behaviour as “unacceptable” but offered their support.

“The club does not condone the misuse of drugs from any player and accept the decision made by the RFU,” the Premiership club said in a statement on their website.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)