Sheffield United midfielder Jose Baxter has tested positive for ecstasy, The Star can confirm.
The news is likely to explain his absence during the League One club’s play-off fixtures with Swindon Town.
A statement, issued by Bramall Lane, read: “The club has learned that one of its players, Jose Baxter, was found to have traces of a banned substance in his sample following a routine Football Association out of competition drug test.
“The player has informed the Club that he engaged in no wrongdoing involving any banned substance.
“Established policy in these circumstances requires that the club temporarily suspend the player pending further findings. The club has taken this step without prejudice to the player’s claim of no wrongdoing.
“The club will offer no further comment at this stage.”
Baxter, aged 23, made 48 appearances for United last season. His absence during the semi-final against Swindon Town, together with a host of other influential performers, was cited by Clough’s as a factor behind their failure to reach Wembley later this month.
Five of Baxter’s 13 goals came during his final nine matches of the campaign and he was United’s designated penalty-taker.
Born in Bootle, Baxter made his debut for Everton aged 16 years and 191 days. He also represented Tranmere Rovers and Oldham Athletic before Clough’s predecessor David Weir brought the former England under-16 and under-17 international to Bramall Lane in the summer of 2013.
Three years earlier it was revealed that the Football Association had suspended 24 players since Adrian Mutu was handed a nine month ban after testing positive for cocaine in 2004. In addition, eight warning or reprimands were issued including one relating to MDMA, or ecstasy. The identity of the player concerned, in that instance, was not released.
Sporting Chance, the brainchild of former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams MBE, describes the effects of ecstasy on a footballer’s body and performance on its website: “In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death.
“Because MDMA can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body), potentially harmful levels can be reached by repeated drug use within short intervals. MDMA users tend to build up a tolerance to the drug, so increased dosage leads to increased harm.
“Users of MDMA face many of the same risks as users of other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.
“These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory problems or heart disease, and other symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.”
Established policy in these circumstances requires that the club temporarily suspend the player pending further findings. The club has taken this step without prejudice to the player’s claim of no wrongdoing.Sheffield United club statement
The Professional Footballers’ Association added a brief statement on its website, confirming that it is providing “full support” to Baxter.
The PFA notes the charge levied against Jose Baxter of Sheffield United regarding an alleged anti-doping violation.
We are providing our full support at this difficult time but will make no further comment as the matter is subject to the appropriate processes.