Sheffield United have no plans to release Jose Baxter from his contract as the player fights to clear his name after failing a drug test.
Traces of a prohibited substance were discovered in the midfielder’s system during an out-of-competition procedure conducted before the League One play-off semi-final against Swindon Town earlier this month.
Baxter denies any wrongdoing and has requested that a ‘B’ sample is analysed before deciding his next step.
The Star understands that officials at Bramall Lane, who publicly acknowledged the circumstances surrounding his absence from their end-of-season fixtures over the weekend, believe they have a duty of care towards the 23-year-old as he battles to overturn the result.
Contrary to reports, Baxter does not face a 24-month ban from all footballing competition if he is found guilty of contravening regulations.
Unlike the case of Hull City’s Jake Livermore, who tested positive for cocaine following a Premier League fixture at Crystal Palace on April 25, Baxter’s alleged violation did not take place immediately before or after a game.
Combined with the nature of the drug involved, which is thought to be ecstasy, that means the former England youth international could be handed a significantly reduced punishment rather than the maximum six-month suspension to which offences not deemed as ‘performance-enhancing’ are usually subject.
Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Aaron McCarey was also revealed to have failed an out-of-competition test for a “non-performance-enhancing substance” and faces similar sanction.
United, who acknowledged Baxter’s protestation of innocence during a 90-word statement published on their website, explained the decision to issue a temporary suspension should not “prejudice” the “player’s claim of no wrongdoing”.
“The club will offer no further comment at this stage,” the statement continued.
The Professional Footballers’ Association has also pledged to provide Baxter with “our full support at this difficult time.”