Richie Burnett makes his return to competitive darts in the Red Dragon Welsh Open this weekend after serving his 18-month ban.
Back in October 2014 it was announced that the 1995 BDO world champion had tested positive for cocaine.
A test found benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, in Burnett’s system and Ukad (UK Anti-Doping) suspended the Welshman from all sports until May 2 of this year.
With Burnett ineligible to play in any PDC events until next year (he does not have a PDPA membership) when he would be able to enter Q-School, the next seven months are expected to be spent playing on the BDO circuit.
After the news broke of the ban, Burnett quite rightly issued an apology, but also vowed he would be back on the circuit when his ban was up.
“I am determined to return to the game next May and to be competitive at the highest level,” he posted on Twitter in October.
“By committing to improving my mental health and well-being as well as my physical health, I am sure I can compete again.”
In the seven months which have followed that statement, Burnett has not put out another tweet.
It leaves darts fans and us who comment on the sport in the unknown. Will ‘The Prince of Wales’ be able to rediscover those heights he reached in both the BDO and the PDC?
Within a 12-month period between 1994 and 1995, Burnett won, in order: the Dutch Open, Welsh Open, British Matchplay, Denmark Open, World Masters and the World Championship on the BDO circuit.
His bright spell on the PDC tour started in 2011 when he reached the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix, and continued with back-to-back last four appearances in the World Cup of Darts alongside Mark Webster.
Some players will complain of rustiness after only a few weeks away from competition, but when Burnett steps up to the oche in Prestatyn this weekend it will be the first competitive darts he has thrown since November 2014.
These next seven months will be important for Burnett and his followers. What sort of results will he get? Can he get near to the form he has shown in the past across both sides of the darting divide?
There’s no questioning that Burnett still has plenty of fight left in him. After battling through dartitis to then be on the brink of the top 16 in the PDC shows that Burnett is not one to shy away from a challenge.
The next chapter of the Richie Burnett is about to get started…