Barba fails drug test, released by NRL champion Cronulla

SYDNEY (AP) Ben Barba has been released by the Cronulla Sharks and faces a 12-match ban from the National Rugby League after testing positive for cocaine in the wake of the club's drought-breaking premiership win last month.

Sharks chief executive Lyall Gorman on Tuesday said the star fullback asked to be released from his playing contract to seek treatment and to deal with personal issues.

The NRL confirmed the positive test, the second for Barba in two years, under its illicit drug program and said it would result in a mandatory 12-match ban whenever he returned to the competition.

In a statement, Barba said he needed time away from the game.

''I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don't address them now I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family,'' he said. ''I hope to return to the game at some stage and am very grateful for the support of the Cronulla Sharks.''

Barba was one of the leading players this season as Cronulla finally broke through for its first premiership, 50 years after joining Australia's top-flight competition.