Sheffield United will liaise with the Professional Footballers’ Association before deciding Jose Baxter’s fate at Bramall Lane if the result of his positive drugs test are upheld.
Baxter was suspended by the League One club pending the outcome of his ‘B’ sample after traces of a prohibited recreational substance, believed to be cocaine, were discovered in his system last month.
Having already been banned for a similar offence last season - Baxter claimed his drink had been spiked with MDMA during a night out in London with friends - the former Oldham Athletic midfielder faces an uncertain future in South Yorkshire if a second round of testing on the sample he provided before United’s defeat at Bury returns the same result although United would consult with PFA officials before reaching a binding decision on whether to retain his services.
Although they are bound by strict confidentiality protocols, The Star understands that earlier this week both United and Baxter expected analysis of his ‘B’ sample to be completed before Saturday’s game against John Sheridan’s side.
The 24-year-old, who started his career at Everton, is again thought to be protesting his innocence of any deliberate wrongdoing.
Nigel Adkins, the United manager, was adhering to Football Association guidelines when he refused to elaborate on Baxter’s situation during preparations for last weekend’s draw at Fleetwood Town. Instead, after being questioned on the matter during his pre-match media conference, Adkins referred journalists to the original statement United issued following their return from Gigg Lane.
That read: “Procedures are being followed and no further comment will be made until the completion of these actions.”
Baxter, who made his debut for Everton eight years ago, joined United from Oldham in September 2013 for a sum reportedly in the region of £500,000. Earlier this term, he was the subject of an internal disciplinary procedure following an unspecified incident thought to have taken place during the first-team squad’s Christmas celebrations but was subsequently integrated back into Adkins’ starting eleven.
Baxter was banned for five months, with three of those being suspended, after testing positive for MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, during United’s preparations for last season’s play-off semi-final. On that occasion, he was interviewed by counsellors and psychiatrists to ascertain whether or not he had a drugs problem while Adkins accompanied Baxter to his hearing at Wembley.
Football Association guidelines on the use of social drugs by professional players states the governing body will identify “options for rehabilitation” in “close consultation” with the PFA for those found to be in breach of its regulations.