FORMER Bath trio Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins were last night banned for nine months after being found guilty of failing to submit to drug tests.
But the Rugby Football Union reduced their sentences from 15 months on the basis of good character and concerns over legal advice they were given.
And the three players could be back in action by the beginning of March after the suspensions were back-dated to 1 June – the day they resigned from Bath.
“The RFU disciplinary panel today takes no pleasure in imposing its sanction as the players involved are decent young men,” read the judgement.
“The starting point is a 15-month suspension and this has been reduced because of good character and concerns about the advice they received.”
Another charge of taking drugs is thought to have been dropped at the start of the four-day hearing.
England international Lipman, 29, and Crockett, 27, were co-captains last season.
But they and Higgins, 27, terminated their contracts in June, denouncing “scurrilous and unsubstantiated allegations”, when Bath accused them of repeatedly refusing to take tests.