Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny will have to prove there was no significant fault or negligence surrounding his positive drugs test if he is to avoid a two-year ban.
The Republic of Ireland international has been suspended by his club after testing positive for the stimulant ephedrine in a urine sample given after the Blades' play-off semi-final against Preston in May. Kenny, 31, will now be subject to a disciplinary inquiry by the Football Association, and will face an independent regulatory commission.
Most drug offences uncovered by in-competition tests carry an automatic two-year ban but ephedrine is a "specified substance" under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, which means there is the potential for a more lenient punishment - possible sanctions range from a reprimand up to a two-year suspension.
It is understood that Kenny will insist the ephedrine entered his system through some cough mixture he took before the match - the stimulant is contained in some cold cures.
FA disciplinary chiefs will need convincing, however, that was the case, and that there was "no significant fault or negligence".
Since 2007, four rugby players - two from rugby union and two from rugby league - have all been served with two-year bans after testing positive for ephedrine.
In three of those cases, the players involved knowingly took ephedrine tablets before a match. In the fourth case the player claimed he took a tablet believing it to be the cold cure Sudafed, which does not contain ephedrine, but was still given a two-year ban.
A Sheffield United spokesman said: "We can confirm that Paddy Kenny has been suspended by the club. This is an ongoing, confidential matter and as such we are unable to comment further."
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