|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
UPDATE: Central Coast have countered claims they sacked midfielder Troy Hearfield for failing a drugs test, with the Mariners issuing a statement the player asked for a release from his contract in February.
News Limited reported earlier on Friday the 25-year-old failed a test early in March, with traces of a recreational drug found.
It is understood Hearfield faced a tribunal two weeks ago and is awaiting his penalty, which could span from anywhere between one to five years.
Hearfield is believed to have first denied taking the drug, before changing his story and admitting it soon after.
It was believed the Mariners had torn up his deal, but they said via statement that Hearfield had in fact approached the club in February requesting a release from his contract.
"The club and Troy then mutually agreed to terminate his contract at that time," the statement said.
"No further comment regarding this matter will be made by the Central Coast Mariners until such time as the process is complete."
The former Newcastle Jets and Wellington utility has made 115 A-League appearances across his three clubs, winning a title with the Jets back in 2008.
Hearfield is the second A-League player to fail a drugs test since the competition's inception eight years ago.
Former Australia international winger Stan Lazaridis also tested positive while playing for Perth Glory, for taking a prescription alopecia medication.
Lazaridis was handed a one-year ban although the drug found in his system has since been withdrawn from the banned list.
The Mariners, who finished the regular season in second position, have the opening weekend of the finals series off before hosting the highest-ranked winner from week one on February 14.