Ben Barba: NRL player avoids drug ban with code switch to Toulon

Ben Barba celebrates winning the 2016 NRL Grand Final with Sharks fans
Ben Barba helped Cronulla Sharks beat Melbourne Storm in the 2016 NRL Grand Final

Australian rugby league player Ben Barba will be allowed to play rugby union in France despite a drugs ban.

Full-back Barba, 27, was given a 12-match ban by Australia's NRL after testing positive for cocaine.

On Tuesday he swapped codes to join Top 14 side Toulon - but will only face a sanction if he returns to rugby league.

"Ben does not have a contract with the NRL so he is free to make a decision to play in a different code with a new club," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.

Barba failed a drugs test just days after winning the Grand Final with Cronulla Sharks in October.

His contract with the club was terminated but he then agreed a new deal with Sharks in December. However, that deal has not been ratified by the NRL and now he is moving to France.

"Ben Barba will arrive in Toulon next week," a spokesperson for the three-time European champions said.

And the NRL later confirmed it would not be able to enforce his ban because he had switched codes.

"The match suspension he needs to serve will only begin after he has completed his playing commitments elsewhere," Greenberg said.

He added his main concern was whether the player would be taking "appropriate courses and programs as part of his rehabilitation".

Barba could make his debut for Toulon against Lyon on 18 February.

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