Former England international Steffon Armitage faces doping verdict

 

Former England international Steffon Armitage will have to wait until next week to discover whether he will be banned by the French Rugby Federation for failing a drugs test in June.

Armitage attended a two-hour hearing of the FFR's anti-doping commission in Marcoussis yesterday, at the end of which he was told the verdict would be published at some point next week.

The Toulon flanker tested positive for morphine, a prohibited substance, following last season's Top 14 final defeat by Toulouse but he has always vehemently expressed his innocence.

Toulon's explanation is that the result was caused by side-effects from painkillers and anti-inflammatories Armitage had been prescribed for back pain, which the club say are approved by the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD).

Armitage was provisionally suspended but that was lifted in August. The original anti-doping hearing was then postponed from 21 August after the player asked to have his B sample tested.

Capped five times by England since making his debut against Italy in the 2009 Six Nations Championship, Armitage has been in great form since moving from London Irish to Toulon in the summer of 2011.

Armitage was voted the Top 14 player of the year last season and he has carried that form into this campaign, despite the uncertainty of the anti-doping hearing hanging over him.

Toulon team-mate Jonny Wilkinson called for Armitage to be recalled by England following his try-scoring performance in the Heineken Cup victory over Cardiff Blues.

But England head coach Stuart Lancaster is not considering players based in France because they are not available to join up with the squad for training camps outside the international window.

England meet at the Football Association's new training centre in Burton tomorrow night to begin their build-up to the autumn internationals.

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