Jose Baxter’s future with Sheffield United was last night shrouded in doubt after he was suspended by the League One club.
Although the circumstances surrounding the midfielder’s absence from the team which faces Port Vale this afternoon have not been officially explained, The Star understands traces of a prohibited recreational substance were detected in his system during a testing procedure.
If that result is upheld, it is almost certain to mark the end of Baxter’s career at Bramall Lane following two recent high-profile incidents.
The 24-year-old served two months of a five month ban after being found to have ingested MDMA before last season’s play-off semi-final against Swindon Town and was then disciplined by United earlier this term after breaching their code of conduct during the players’ Christmas party.
Baxter was eventually integrated back into Nigel Adkins’ first-team squad.
But, with his contract set to expire at the end of the present campaign, it seems highly unlikely that either the manager or United’s board of directors will seek to negotiate an extension if their fears are confirmed.
A statement, published by United yesterday, said: “Sheffield United Football Club can confirm that Jose Baxter has been suspended.”
“Procedures are being followed and no further comment will be made until the completion of these actions.”
United informed the Professional Footballers’ Association they intended to suspend Baxter before making the announcement.
Baxter, previously of Everton and Oldham Athletic, has scored seven goals in 28 appearances since returning to action after testing positive for ecstasy towards the end of the 2014/15 season.
Adkins, despite not being in charge when the offence took place, accompanied Baxter to a Football Association tribunal where it was argued his drink had been spiked during a visit to London with friends.
FA chiefs subsequently elected to suspend a large part of the punishment they eventually handed down but, under anti-doping guidelines, Baxter is believed to have been informed he could be subject of target testing for the next two years. United are ninth in the table - five points behind sixth-placed Millwall - after being beaten by Bury on Tuesday evening.