The Spanish high court have rejected an appeal by Athletic Bilbao’s Carlos Gurpegi and imposed a two-year ban on the midfielder after he tested positive for nandrolone in 2002.

“The high court have notified Gurpegi of their sentence, rejecting his appeal and confirming the withdrawal of his playing licence for two years,” Bilbao said in a statement.

Gurpegi, who has always denied knowingly taking a banned substance, tested positive in the first match of the 2002-03 season.

Bilbao club officials said in March 2003 that a study showed that the player produced the substance naturally and had not taken it from an external source.

The latest ruling brings to an end a series of legal wranglings that have rumbled on for the last four years.