Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has instructed Brent Naden that he will not line up for the club until at least round five of this season, per reports from The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Michael Chammas.
Cleary’s ruling has come after the star centre tested positive to cocaine following the Panther’s 26-20 loss in last season’s Grand Final.
It rules him out of Penrith’s opening four clashes of the season against North Queensland, Canterbury, Melbourne and Manly.
Although Naden had previously served his backdated one-month ban in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s updated code, the 25-year-old has been informed that his season will not begin before April 9.
Cleary’s ban is just the latest sanction in a long line that Naden has faced, with the Wellington born back already hit with a suspended $20,000 fine from the club and an NRL imposed fine of $5000 for breaking bubble protocols to source the illicit powder.
According to Chammas, the centre’s four week stint on the sidelines was not imposed by the club, but by Cleary himself. It is reported that the head coach came to his decision after discussions with Penrith’s senior players.
Despite being ineligible for selection until the Panthers face the Raiders in round five, Naden will be permitted to both play in trial games and carry on training with teammates.
Chammas also expressed that the round five return date is not set in stone for the soon to be out of contract star.
Under WADA’s updated drug code, Naden was able to serve his backdated ban of a month, as he was able to prove he consumed the cocaine recreationally rather than for performance enhancing purposes. The New South Welshman’s decision to partake in rehabilitation programming also aided the briefness of the ban.
Although Naden claimed that he has ingested the drugs whilst partying the night prior to last season’s decider, his employer has altered the narrative.
Penrith is of the belief that it was the centre’s mental health related issues that saw him break multiple protocols.
Penrith became aware of Naden’s test failure following information provided by the then 24-year-old.
Naden did not contest the tester’s – Sports Integrity – findings and stated that he had taken the banned substance the night prior to the Grand Final.
Due to the low levels found in Naden’s sample and the fact that he had not consumed the cocaine well in advance, Sport Integrity ruled that Naden’s breach was of a recreational nature.
Naden has played 30 NRL games since making his first-grade debut in 2019.