Patrick Tuipulotu, cleared of any wrongdoing after spending months in limbo following a failed drugs test, received cheers and applause from his teammates when he entered the Blues' headquarters this morning and now plans to make up for lost time.
Tuipulotu, sent home from the All Blacks' northern tour in November after an A sample tested positive for a banned substance, protested his innocence to the team's management and New Zealand Rugby at the time and now has been vindicated.
The Salt Lake City-based Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory has promised to investigate the flawed process which resulted in a positive A sample and negative B sample, but Tuipulotu, in facing the media for the first time this morning before joining his teammates on the training pitch, appeared keen to put it all behind him.
"I was shocked when I got notified of my test in November," he said. "It was quite stressful and hard to take at the time. I had to go through a long process and I'm relieved at the outcome."
As part of the process following Tuipulotu's failed A sample, the 24-year-old was not allowed to train with his teammates and could rely only on his family for support as he faced the possibility of having to serve a suspension despite having not knowingly taken anything on the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited substances list.
"It was definitely hard watching the Blues train while I was going to training by myself," he said. "But it was a good eye-opener for me in terms of other aspects outside rugby. I'll take a lot from this."
His return is a welcome one to a Blues team who showed significant signs of improvement under coach Tana Umaga last season and glimpses of promise again in their pre-season match against the Hurricanes last weekend.
Tuipulotu, who has played 12 tests, is a 120kg lock around whom Umaga will build his pack. His absence would have been significant and adding to the issues for Umaga at the start of his second season is that the coach had no idea how long Tuipulotu might be out for.
His importance to the team explains the spontaneous reaction he received when entering the team's dining area before training today, but the softly-spoken Tuipulotu is also immensely well-liked within the squad.
"We're happy to have Patrick back in the fold with us where he should be," said Umaga, who admitted to "disbelief" when informed of Tuipulotu's initial failed test.
Tuipulotu and Umaga were grilled by reporters about the flawed process and what it was Tuipulotu tested positive for, but neither was in a position to comment.
For Umaga, the important thing is that his giant forward is back in the mix, a position which could make some of his teammates a little uncomfortable.
"Everyone's a bit scared about facing him in the next couple of days because he'll have to get up to speed contact-wise," Umaga said. "Everyone's drawing names out of a hat to get that job."