The former Great Britain hooker, Terry Newton, has been found dead at his home at the age of 31.
Mr Newton, who was found hanged at his house in Orrell yesterday morning, was serving a two-year ban from the game after becoming the first professional sportsman in the world to test positive for human growth hormone.
He began his career at Leeds, before a transfer to his home-town club, Wigan. He later moved to Bradford, but was released at the end of his contract in 2009.
He then joined Wakefield, but had played only two games for them when it was revealed that he had failed a blood-test the previous November. Mr Newton admitted to taking the drug and described himself as a "cheat", but insisted that others were doing the same thing and getting away with it.
He took over a pub in Wigan and, while admitting that his Super League days were over, hoped to play at a lower level when he had served his suspension. He expressed a willingness to co-operate with the drugs authorities in the hope that he might be allowed to return to the game before his two-year ban expired.
Mr Newton, who leaves a wife and two children, played 15 times for Great Britain.
The RFL's chairman, Richard Lewis, said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Terry's untimely death. This is a personal tragedy and our thoughts are with Terry's partner, his children and his family at this terrible time."
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "Police were called to a house in Orrell, Wigan, following a report of concern for welfare. Officers went to the address and found the body of a 31-year-old man.
"Inquiries have been launched, but there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding his death."
Mr Newton won a Challenge Cup winners' medal with Leeds in 1999, before his dream move to Wigan Warriors, where he produced his best rugby. He was named in the 2003 Super League Dream Team with the Lancashire club. Gary Hetherington, Leeds chief executive, and a former president of the Rugby Football League, said last night: "It's a sad loss. Gary was a very talented player but was clearly a troubled man."
Mr Newton made a reluctant move to Bradford in 2006 and joined Wakefield 12 months ago after being offered a two-year contract.
Bradford chairman, Peter Hood, said: "We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic news.
"Terry was the ultimate professional during his time at the club and it was a privilege to have known him as a friend and colleague.
"We send our deepest sympathy to Stacey and his two children at what is a very, very sad time for everyone who knew him."
Mr Newton had hoped to resurrect his career under Wildcats coach John Kear and, in his autobiography Coming Clean, he said he turned to human growth hormone in a bid to refresh his ageing body.
Further tributes were pouring in last night on Facebook pages dedicated to the player.
Commenting as Amy Thornhill, one fan wrote: "RIP to a true great in rugby league, you will be sadly missed."Reuse content