Penrith NRL star Brent Naden could face a ban as short as one month if he can prove he didn't use cocaine to enhance performance after it was revealed he tested positive following the grand final.
The 24-year-old outside back was provisionally suspended by the NRL on Tuesday, having returned a positive sample for cocaine metabolites when tested by Sport Integrity Australia after the grand final loss to Melbourne on October 25.
Naden recently entered a rehabilitation facility in Sydney to deal with drug and alcohol issues after fronting Panthers staff in the days following the grand final and admitting recreational drug use.
Cocaine is prohibited in-competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the NRL's anti-doping policy.
However, under new guidelines published by WADA on September 30, Naden will have the chance to significantly reduce any ban.
The WADA modifications, which come into effect on January 1, include a reclassification of cocaine as a 'substance of abuse' - drastically slashing the previous ban of two years.
"If the athlete can establish that any ingestion or use occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, then the period of ineligibility shall be three months," WADA's new code says.
"In addition, the period of ineligibility... may be reduced to one month if the athlete or other person satisfactorily completes a substance of abuse treatment program approved by the Anti-Doping Organization."
It's understood any potential ban could be backdated to the time Naden entered the rehab facility.
He has since returned to his NSW hometown of Wellington, with his family, where he continues rehab treatment.
The Panthers are standing firmly by Naden as he deals with complex personal issues and have sent support staff to Wellington.
"Penrith Panthers acknowledges the provisional suspension handed down to player Brent Naden after he returned a positive test for a recreational drug," the club said in a statement.
"As previously reported, Brent approached the club following the 2020 NRL grand final to seek help with a number of personal issues. At that time he admitted to the use of a recreational drug.
"Panthers informed the NRL of Brent's admission and with the support of the club, he commenced a voluntary rehabilitation program at a private health facility.
"Brent recently completed that program and continues to address his personal issues with the support of his family and Panthers staff.
"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 is contracted to the club until the end of 2021.
Australian Associated Press