All Blacks XV and Hurricanes player Isaia Walker-Leawere has served a one-month ban from all sport after a sample during the Super Rugby season tested positive for the use of cannabis.
It follows an in-competition test administered during the Super Rugby season in May. The New Zealand Rugby judicial committee instituted a suspension from July 5 to August 5, meaning Walker-Leawere was not available for the Magpies’ opening 2023 NPC match against North Harbour.
The 26-year-old lock has played more than 120 first-class matches since 2015, including 10 as a Maori All Black, 33 appearances for Hawke’s Bay, and more than 50 for the Hurricanes.
A statement says the player entered into a treatment programme to address his substance use.
Cannabis is banned in sport under the Substances of Abuse category, which acknowledges that some substances are abused outside of sport.
Provisions for such substances allow athletes to balance a reduced ban with the completion of a treatment programme. If he does not complete the programme, a ban of three months will apply.
Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Nick Paterson said he supports this athlete-centred approach.
“We don’t believe that cannabis is performance-enhancing. Getting Mr Walker-Leawere Substance of Abuse support and back into sport after serving his sanction is the most practical outcome and supports long-term athlete health and wellbeing.
“We’ve advocated to remove cannabis from the Prohibited List for over 15 years and will continue to do so.
However, while cannabis remains on the Prohibited List, the best approach to avoiding a positive test is to avoid using it.”
Walker-Leawere was one of three players to return home early from an All Blacks XV tour to Japan last month.
At the time, New Zealand Rugby said Walker-Leawere, prop Oli Jager, and hooker Asafo Aumua had returned to New Zealand for personal reasons.