'Bullying' Delon Armitage sees appeal denied

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The Independent Online

Delon Armitage was last night castigated for bullying and threatening behaviour towards an anti-doping officer after failing in his appeal to overturn an eight-week ban.

The London Irish full-back cannot play again until March 17, effectively guaranteeing he will not feature in England's RBS 6 Nations campaign.

England's final match against Ireland is on March 19 and it is highly unlikely head coach Martin Johnson would consider him for the trip to Dublin after two months out.

The 27-year-old will also miss London Irish's next four Aviva Premiership matches, against Newcastle, Gloucester, Harlequins and Leeds.

Armitage was banned for pushing and verbally abusing the doping control officer, who approached him to conduct a routine test immediately after the Exiles' defeat to Bath on January 1.

The case was without precedent in England. The RFU's chief disciplinary officer, Judge Jeff Blackett, equated the offence to abuse of a match official and branded Armitage's behaviour as "completely unacceptable".

Blackett's view was backed by the three-man appeals panel, which last night dismissed Armitage's argument the original sanction had been "disproportionate".

Panel chairman by Ian Unsworth QC said: "Mr Armitage was aggressive, bullying, persistent and threatening.

"He subjected the doping control officer to a volley of abuse and he deserved better than that.

"We came to the conclusion that the decision and sanction reached by the original panel was fair, reasonable and one which they were entitled to.

"The Rugby Football Union attaches the highest importance to the fight against doping in sport and thus considers the work of UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) to be important to the reputation of rugby and sport as a whole.

"The work of the doping control officers is of crucial importance in this field and players should be aware of their obligations to comply with the reasonable requirements of those officers."