Attoub loses gouging ban appeal

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David Attoub today had his appeal against a 70-week ban for gouging thrown out by an independent appeal committee.

The Stade Francais prop was handed the original suspension in January after being found guilty of making contact with the eye or eye area of Ulster's Stephen Ferris in a Heineken Cup clash on December 12, 2009.

The appeal hearing was held in London on Tuesday with Attoub appealing against both the finding of foul play and level of sanction imposed.

But the appeal committee today ruled he "had not demonstrated that the original decision had been in error and therefore dismissed the appeal".

Attoub is now banned until April 22, 2011.

Jeff Blackett, the independent judicial officer at Attoub's initial disciplinary hearing had described the incident as "the worst act of contact with the eyes I have had to deal with".

Attoub had said he was "traumatised" by the ban and his club were quick to rally around the player's decision to appeal.

But their failure to have the suspension reduced or annulled means the ban remains the second-most severe to have been handed out for a gouging offence in the professional era, exceeded only by the two-year ban handed to Colomiers prop Richard Nones in 1999 .

The 28-year-old, who had previously served a suspension for gouging in a European match during the 2004-05 season, had pleaded not guilty to the offence although the incident was captured clearly in an image taken by a photographer at the match.

The authenticity of that image was disputed by Stade, but that claim was dismissed by the initial hearing.

Attoub's team-mate Julien Dupuy is currently serving a 23-week ban after he was also found guilty of gouging Ireland international Ferris during Stade's 23-13 defeat at Ravenhill.

The scrum-half's suspension was initially 24 weeks but it was reduced by one week on appeal.