AFTER a year out following a positive drugs test, it was revealed this week that Dan Evans will make his return to professional tennis.

Evans tested positive for cocaine during the Barcelona Open last year and with his ban from tennis ending on Tuesday, the former British number two will step back on court at the Glasgow Trophy, which begins a week tomorrow. And he is, by all accounts, keen to get back to the tour as quickly as possible.

It is not, however, Evans’ return to the court that is contentious, it is the manner in which he will reappear on the tour.

Evans’ year-long absence means that he now has no world ranking and so the LTA have granted him a wildcard into the Glasgow event. The 27-year-old will gain entry into the qualifying rounds of the tournament at Scotstoun and while this is quite a fall from grace for a player who was once ranked as high as 41 in the world and reached the fourth round of the US Open, it is a far better option than hunting around for far flung tournaments to which he would gain entry to the draw despite having no ranking.

There is something distinctly unpalatable about the LTA granting Evans a wildcard though.

I’m all for athletes who fail doping tests being given a second chance, particularly when the circumstances are like those around Evans’ case; there are few who would suggest that Evans was taking drugs for performance-enhancing reasons, rather he was guilty of little more than crass stupidity to have cocaine in his system.

But while, in my opinion, this means the Englishman should not be demonised in the way a Lance Armstrong or a Marion Jones was, he should not be given any leeway to get his career back on track.

Evans is almost certainly not a hard-core doper. But nevertheless, he failed a test and while he should absolutely be allowed to return to the tour once he has served his suspension, giving him a leg up only serves to belittle the seriousness of his crime.

Tennis has not always had the best reputation when it comes to fighting doping –and some of the world’s top players, including Andy Murray, have been outspoken about their concern about doping in the sport.

So if tennis wants to enhance its reputation as a sport that doesn’t go easy on those who fail drugs tests, giving wildcards to players returning from drugs suspensions cannot be an option.

A similar issue arose last year when Maria Sharapova completed her 15-month suspension for testing positive for meldonium. A number of tournaments gave her wildcards but the French Open, the first grand slam in which she was available to play, refused to grant her a wildcard, saying that it would be difficult to justify giving Sharapova a free passage with one hand while strengthening the organisation’s fight against doping with the other.

It is impossible to disagree with this summary.

The LTA on the other hand, by giving Evans a wildcard, are sending entirely the wrong message. Those who fail drugs tests should be allowed back, but they should not be welcomed with open arms.

The LTA performance director Simon Timson said that the organisation “condemned doping in any form” before revealing that Evans has passed “agreed checks” which encouraged the LTA to give him this wildcard.

“Dan has reflected on his experience over the last year, and has begun to support the development of the LTA’s anti-doping education materials to help emerging young players avoid similar mistakes,” Timson said, in justifying the organisation’s decision.

This is not, in my eyes, the route for any governing body to go down if they want to give the impression they will take a hard line to any of their athletes who fail doping tests.

By all means, let those who fail drugs tests resume their careers, especially if it was for recreational drugs as was the case for Evans. But do not aid and abet their return. This decision makes the LTA look soft on drugs.

It remains to be seen how effectively Evans can resurrect his career. But no player who has failed a drugs test should be given such an easy path back into the game as Evans has.