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Cronulla Sutherland Sharks player Ben Barba has been suspended for 12 matches after returning a second positive sample under the NRL’s illicit drug testing program. 

Head of Integrity, Nick Weeks said Barba’s second positive sample was not related to performance enhancing drugs and it had been recorded after the Grand Final.  

The player’s first contravention of the illicit drug policy was recorded in 2015.  

As a result of the second contravention, Barba must serve a mandatory 12 match suspension.

Given Barba has been released from his current contract, the suspension will apply if he returns to the NRL in the future.

Mr Weeks said the NRL is working with the club to offer support for Barba and his family.

He said three players had now been suspended under the NRL’s independent illicit drug testing program.

"The League will continue to extend support to Ben Barba but this should serve as a warning to all players of one of the potential consequences of using illicit drugs," Mr Weeks said.