A Burnley-born professional rugby player has been banned for six months after testing positive for cocaine for the second time, with his employers, Premiership side Sale Sharks, calling his actions "unacceptable".
Former Blessed Trinity student Jake Pope (21), a 6'1" prop forward, is the first player to be found guilty of twice breaching the Rugby Football Union's (RFU) illicit drugs policy, which has been in place since 2010.
Pope first tested positive in September 2017, when a test found "cocaine or its metabolites", which resulted in Pope being fined £1,000, although the incident was not made public under RFU policy as it was a first-time offence.
Following a second positive test in November last year however, which found "adverse analytical finding" for cannabis and cocaine, Pope will be banned until June 4th. He has not played since December 4th, 2018 - the date of his provisional suspension.
A talented, 19.4-stone loosehead who has been included in England U20s squads in the past, Pope started playing rugby union with Burnley RUFC in 2004 as a seven-year-old before moving to Preston Grasshoppers and then to then Myerscough College. He then joined the Sale Sharks Academy and has gone on to make six Premiership appearances for the club.
In a statement on their website, Sale said: "As soon as Sale Sharks were made aware of Jake’s failed tests, the club intervened to ensure Jake had the support pathway he required to address the matter and avoid any further issues arising in the future. As a role model to young players across the North-West, this behaviour is unacceptable.
"The club does not condone the misuse of drugs from any player and accept the decision made by the RFU," the statement continued. "However, Sale Sharks prides itself on being able to offer a career pathway into rugby for people of all backgrounds and circumstances and for this reason we feel it is right that, as a young man who has made mistakes, Jake be given a fair chance to redeem himself."