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Sunderland youngster banned for drugs

Former Sunderland scholar Lewis Gibbons has been banned from all football for two years after being found guilty of drug use.

Gibbons tested positive for cocaine and cannabis after Sunderland's Under-18 game against Aston Villa in September and admitted two breaches of the FA's Anti-Doping Regulations at a hearing in December.

The player's ban has been backdated to October 18 2012 - the date the FA initially suspended him.

A statement on Sunderland's official website read: "Following an FA investigation, the player was given a mandatory two-year ban from football.

"A club investigation also took place at the time, and his scholarship with Sunderland was cancelled with immediate effect."

The Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne said: "Empowering and educating our young people to make the right choices and decisions, both on and off the field, is fundamental to our Academy philosophy and ethos.

"It was enormously disappointing for everyone at the club who works so hard to support our young players and give them every opportunity to make it as professional footballers.

"We are strong advocates of the rigorous testing programme that our sport adheres to, and we will continue to educate and advise all our young players as to the enormous dangers of drug use."

Gibbons was seen as a bright prospect at the Stadium of Light, academy manager Ged McNamee said.

He added: "Lewis not only let our club down, he let himself and his team-mates down massively.

"We took the strongest possible action in terminating his contract, as every footballer knows the severe consequences of this type of offence.

"We have, however, worked to ensure that support and assistance was available to the player and his family through what has undoubtedly been a difficult and challenging time for them."

As a consequence of his ban, Gibbons will be subject to target testing until October 18 2014.