A source tells PEOPLE that rumors of substance abuse are categorically untrue

By Amanda Michelle Steiner
Updated March 27, 2015 08:00 AM
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Despite rampant speculation to the contrary, Zayn Malik was not fired from One Direction, a source close to the band tells PEOPLE.

“The rumors about him being fired and having a drug problem aren’t true,” says the source.

This isn’t the first time that Malik, 22, has been plagued with rumors of drug abuse. Last May, a leaked video of Malik and his former One Direction bandmate, Louis Tomlinson, showed the two passing what they referred to as a “joint” back and forth. Malik received the lion’s share of negative attention following the leak where Tomlinson, 23, emerged relatively scot-free.

Speculation ramped up once again in November when Malik was absent from a promotional appearance on the Today show. Anchor Matt Lauer asked after Malik and Liam Payne responded that Malik had a “tummy bug”; Lauer followed up by asking, “Is it something more serious than just a minor illness? There have been rumors of substance abuse. What’s going on?”

“I’m really angry and upset by what was said on the Today show,” Malik later told the U.K.’s Sun newspaper. “I was really ill at the weekend, that’s why I couldn’t fly to America.”

Finally, news broke last week that both Malik and Tomlinson had been forced to pay a "weed bond" before they could perform in the Philippines as part of their On the Road Again world tour.

However, Malik would never have to pay his share; he left the tour on March 19 and announced his official departure from the band on Wednesday.

“Out of every one of the boys, he’s the one who struggles dealing with being in the spotlight the most,” a source previously told PEOPLE. “He can’t cope with the level of scrutiny he gets put under. He’s just 22.”

In an interview with The Sun on Friday, Malik was tangibly relieved about his decision to leave the band. “It is crazy and wild and a bit mad,” he said, “but at the same time I’ve never felt more control in my life. And I feel like I’m doing what’s right – right by myself and right by the boys, so I feel good.”

Zayn Malik on Leaving One Direction: ‘I Feel Like I’ve Let the Fans down, But I Can’t Do This Anymore’