SYDNEY – Wallabies prop James Slipper was banned on Thursday for two months after testing positive for cocaine, with the apologetic Queensland Reds skipper revealing he was being treated for depression.
The front-rower, who has played 86 Tests and previously captained Australia, failed two tests taken from urine samples between February and May and was also fined Aus$27,500 (US$20,700).
He is the second Wallaby and Reds star to succumb to illicit drugs in recent months.
Karmichael Hunt was fined $10,000 and placed on a targeted testing programme in March after a court case that caused the sport "significant reputational damage".
Hunt avoided conviction when a cocaine charge was dropped, but admitted possession of a restricted prescription drug after a random street stop by police in Brisbane last December.
Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle said Slipper, 28 was "dealing with very significant personal issues" and was remorseful.
"We are extremely disappointed to be in this position today with one of our most senior international players having submitted two positive tests for cocaine," she said.
"We are ensuring that James is receiving full help and support, including specialist medical treatment.
"James has expressed his sincere remorse for his actions and for placing himself, Rugby Australia and the Reds in this very difficult situation."
The Australian newspaper said when Slipper first tested positive he was put on a confidential rehabilitation program but then, even knowing he would be targeted by drug-testers, he tested positive again last week.
Slipper said he was "unfit" to address the matter personally with the media on Thursday, but in a statement acknowledged "there was no place for illicit drugs in sport".
"I have been suffering wellness issues including depression for a year and have been receiving professional assistance for the last few months," he said. "The advice is that I will make a speedy and total recovery.
"In no way do my personal circumstances excuse my actions, but I recognise now that I was not coping and that I need to properly address these wellness issues."
Although Slipper is one of Australia's most-capped players, he was not part of recent Wallabies gatherings and had not been expected to feature in their upcoming series against Ireland.
Castle said the punishment took into account his personal circumstances, service to club and country and previous good character.
"It is an incredibly challenging time for him and his family and our immediate focus is on James's health and wellbeing while he undertakes an enforced period away from the sport," she said.