March 31 (Reuters) - Premier League Stoke City support forward Saido Berahino’s claim that his eight-week drugs ban was a result of a spiked drink, manager Mark Hughes said.
Berahino served the ban earlier this season for failing a drugs test while at former club West Bromwich Albion. The former England under-21 striker told the BBC this week that his ban was the result of someone spiking his drink at a nightclub.
“That’s always been Saido’s stance and we’ve got no reason not to believe him. From the first time we spoke to Saido that’s always been his stance and he’s never wavered,” Hughes told reporters on Friday.
“In this day and age you can believe that it can happen... He’s playing football again, doing well.”
Berahino joined Stoke in January for a reported 12 million pounds ($15 million) having not played for Albion since September 2016.
Stoke, ninth in the table, face 15th-placed Leicester City on Saturday and Hughes is wary of a rejuvenated side that have won all three of their league games since sacking manager Claudio Ranieri last month.
“They’ve gone back to what they were doing last season and they’ve got a bit of a new manager boost,” Hughes added, referring to Leicester’s surprise Premier League triumph.
“It’s always difficult against Leicester because they’re a fully committed side and you have to make sure their key players can’t influence the game. It’s never going to be an easy fixture but I still feel we can go there with good intentions.”
Hughes hoped Xherdan Shaqiri, who last featured in January, could return shortly as the club look to sort out the winger’s persistent calf problems.
“At the moment when he steps things up he gets set-backs. We don’t anticipate it will be too long,” Hughes said. ($1 = 0.8027 pounds) (Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir)