In a blow to hopes the NRL season would resume this week without scandal, one of the league’s brightest prospects, Bronson Xerri, has been provisionally suspended after failing a drugs test.

The Cronulla Sharks player faces a potential four-year ban after returning a positive result for various performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone.

That and the three others – androsterone, etiocholanolone and 5b-androstane-3a,17b-diol – are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the NRL’s anti-doping policy.

Xerri was tested by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority on 25 November last year. Under the league’s policy, he now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

“The Sharks have today been made aware of the provisional suspension handed down to Bronson Xerri under the NRL’s anti-doping policy,” Cronulla said in a statement.

“Bronson has been stood down from training and playing responsibilities while the process runs its course, which under the policy includes the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

“The club has been in contact with Bronson.”

The news comes on the eve of the resumption of the 2020 season, which has been suspended since 22 March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The NRL had been hoping to avoid any further negative headlines as it prepares to become the first major Australian league to return on Thursday. Earlier this month, a number of player indiscretions in relation to social distancing breaches had threatened to derail resumption plans.

Xerri had been slated to return for Cronulla in their first game back from the break against Wests Tigers on Saturday, having missed the opening two matches of the season pre-shutdown due to a shoulder injury.

The 19-year-old is one of the league’s most promising up-and-coming players, having burst onto the scene with 13 tries in 22 games in his debut senior season last year.

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