Ex-Sunderland youth captain banned for drugs

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A FORMER Sunderland youth player has been banned for two years after testing positive for cocaine and cannabis.

Lewis Gibbons has been hit with the ban after admitting two breaches of the FA’s Anti-Doping regulations.

The 18-year-old, a former captain of the youth team, tested positive for the drugs following the team’s under-18 league match against Aston Villa on September 22 last year.

Bosses at the Stadium of Light also carried out their own investigation in October last year, immediately ending the player’s scholarship.

SAFC’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, said: “Empowering and educating our young people to make the right choices and decisions, both on and off the field, is fundamental to our Academy philosophy and ethos.

“We expect the highest standards of all players who have the honour of being part of Sunderland AFC, which is why this came as such a shock to us.

“It was enormously disappointing for everyone at the club who works so hard to support our young players and give them every opportunity to make it as professional footballers.

“We are strong advocates of the rigorous testing programme that our sport adheres to and we will continue to educate and advise all of our young players as to the enormous dangers of drug use.”

Gibbons’s case was heard by an independent regulator on December 18 last year.

Following the conclusion of the hearing, an appeal was lodged. This has now been withdrawn.

Described on his profile as being able to “operate in either defence or midfield”, Gibbons had been a Sunderland Academy player since the age of 10. Sunderland AFC’s Academy manager, Ged McNamee, added: “Lewis not only let our club down, he let himself and his team-mates down massively.

“We took the strongest possible action in terminating his contract as every footballer knows the severe consequences of this type of offence.

“We have, however, worked to ensure that support and assistance was available to the player and his family through what has undoubtedly been a difficult and challenging time for them.”

The player’s suspension will be backdated to last October when he was suspended.

Gibbons, originally from Bensham, Gateshead, will be subject to target testing for two years from October 2014.

Twitter: @craigjourno