Bristol have signed the banned Bath player Alex Crockett for the final months of their Championship season. Former England Saxons centre Crockett is currently serving a nine-month suspension as one of three players who refused to take two tests after Bath investigated allegations of drug use at an end-of-season party.
The 28-year-old will be available from 1 March next year and will train with the club full time from January onwards. Bristol head coach Paul Hull said: "The signing offers Alex a chance to rebuild his career back into top-flight rugby and in turn help Bristol build towards the future and, hopefully, a return to the Guinness Premiership.
"Alex is an outstanding player and a proven talent on the field. It was simply an opportunity we couldn't miss given his playing capabilities and our goal of promotion.
"It's a new challenge for him and I'm sure he will bring a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge, as well adding further strength and depth to the existing squad."
A statement from Bristol added: "The club understands the circumstances surrounding Alex's exit from Bath Rugby and, after extensive conversations, we are fully confident in his professionalism going forward."
Crockett, who went to school in Bristol, added: "I am delighted to have this opportunity to restart my career with Bristol Rugby. It is a chance that I am determined to take and I will do everything possible to help Bristol get promotion."
Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union are conducting a major review of their Sevens programme to ensure England are not left trailing in the global rush for Olympic gold in 2016. England have been at the vanguard of the sport in recent years, combining central contracts and innovative sports science techniques to become a major power.
But that competitive advantage is under threat after England's rivals reacted quickly to rugby's reinclusion in the Olympic Games by immediately increasing their investment in Sevens.
The South Africa coach Paul Treu believes that Olympic inclusion will soon mean Sevens will be "bigger than 15s", with rising powers like the USA and Russia looking to challenge the established elite.
The England head coach, Ben Ryan, admitted the RFU must act quickly or risk being left behind. "You can already see the impact of the Olympic vote. There are more analysts and conditioning staff now, more teams are using central contracts which means they have had better preparation before coming to Dubai," said Ryan, whose team get their Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens campaign under way tomorrow. "Three years ago that wasn't the case and undoubtedly it is the Olympics that is causing this. England have a lot to do. We cannot stand still."