Richie Burnett apologises to fans after ban for positive cocaine test

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
Richie Burnett
The 1995 BDO champion Burnett has played on the PDC circuit for more than a decade

Former world darts champion Richie Burnett has apologised after being given an 18-month ban over a positive test for cocaine.

Welshman Burnett, 48, said he been seeking help for depression and vowed to compete again at a high level.

"I'd like to apologise to fans for my actions last year which have resulted in this ban," he said.

"Those close to me will know the personal challenges I have faced over recent years."

The 1995 British Darts Organisation (BDO) champion was removed from the 2015 PDC World Championship last December for "personal reasons".

On Wednesday, it emerged he had tested positive for cocaine at a PDC Grand Slam qualifier in Wigan and had an appeal against an 18-month ban, which runs from 3 November 2014 to 2 May 2016, dismissed.

Burnett would normally have received a two-year suspension from UK Anti-Doping from competing in all sports but this was reduced because of mitigating circumstances he offered to a tribunal.

"Depression is an illness which affects people in different ways and impairs their decision-making so I have been using this time to seek professional help and will continue to do so," said Burnett in a statement after the ban was announced.

"I'd like to place on record my thanks to my sponsors for sticking by me during these very difficult times.

Burnett's appeal against ban
June 2015: Burnett was told of ban. September 2015: Appeal heard, and later dismissed
Burnett said he was grateful the suspension had been reduced to 18 months, but argued the ban was effectively two years and two months because he would miss PDC qualifying in January, and be unable to compete and earn money until January 2017.

"I am determined to return to the game next May and to be competitive at the highest level.

"By committing to improving my mental health and well-being as well as my physical health, I am sure I can compete again."

At his appeal, Burnett cited the recent case of Hull City footballer Jake Livermore, who was not banned by the Football Association after testing positive for cocaine following the death of his newborn child.

The exact details of mitigating circumstances in the darts player's case have not been made public, but the appeal panel ruled there were "clear differences" with Livermore's situation.

Burnett won supportfrom former world champion Keith Deller
The 1983 world BDO champion Keith Deller offered his support on Twitter

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