Jose Baxter, the former Sheffield United midfielder, has been banned until next August by the Football Association after testing positive for cocaine.
The Star can reveal that Baxter, who was released by the League One club earlier this summer, will miss the entire 2016/17 season following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his latest violation of the governing body’s anti-doping code.
United confirmed traces of a prohibited recreational substance had been discovered in the player’s system following February’s visit to Bury and immediately suspended him from all first team duties. Baxter is understood to have pleaded guilty to involuntarily ingesting the drug during a disciplinary hearing at Wembley but escaped the maximum two year ban permitted under FA guidelines. He served 12 weeks of a five month ban in 2015 after being found to have taken ecstasy. On that occasion, Baxter claimed his drink had been spiked during a night out in London with friends and is believed to have again argued mitigating circumstances following his most recent breach.
The punishment means Baxter will have effectively missed 18 months of football before he is eligible to return to competitive action although he could be allowed to resume training with a professional club during the closing stages of his suspension.
The FA does not comment on cases where players have tested positive for social drugs during an out-of-competition procedure.
Baxter, aged 24, started his career with Everton and became the club’s youngest ever senior player when he appeared as a second-half substitute against Blackburn Rovers in 2008. Having rejected a new contract at Goodison Park, Baxter subsequently joined Oldham Athletic before arriving at Bramall Lane at the start of the 2014/15 campaign. A member of the squad which reached the semi-finals of both the FA and Capital One cups under then manager Nigel Clough, Baxter scored 28 goals in 121 appearances for United.