National Rugby League (NRL) chief executive Todd Greenberg stated that fullback Ben Barba will have to serve his 12-match ban on his return to the sport.
The 27-year-old was part of the of the Premiership winning Cronulla Sharks team that defeated Melbourne in the final and following the title win, Barba was handed a 12-match ban after he was tested positive for cocaine.
Cronulla Sharks granted him a release from his contract to address the issue and he is due for a return in 2018 after undergoing a well-being programme and signing a 12-month deal with them.
To fill in the void, Barba will join the French club Toulon for the remainder of the ongoing Top 14 season.
However, Greenberg had made it clear that Barba's suspension will be effective only when he returns back to NRL from Toulon commitment.
"Ben does not have a registered contract with the NRL so he is free to make a decision to play in a different code with a new club," Greenberg said.
"The match suspension he needs to serve will only begin after he has completed his playing commitments elsewhere.
"We have been working closely with the Sharks on ensuring he has access to appropriate courses and programs as part of his rehabilitation.
"I would hope that everyone involved in this matter is looking at how we look after Ben's welfare first and foremost - and football matters should be secondary."