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Heineken Cup
Attoub slapped with 70-week gouging ban
Scrum.com
January 19, 2010

Stade Francais prop David Attoub has been hammered with a 70-week ban for gouging Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris. The ban means Attoub will not be available to play again until April 22, 2011.

The incident occurred during Stade's Heineken Cup loss to Ulster at Ravenhill on December 12, 2009, a game in which scrum-half Julien Dupuy also gouged Ferris. Dupuy was later banned for 23 weeks, ending his season.

ERC disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett described Attoub's actions as "the worst act of contact with the eyes that I have had to deal with: it is a case of deliberate eye gouging." His ban is 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 .

Blackett's decision was also informed by Attoub's disciplinary record, which includes a previous ban for making contact with the eyes, and also the fact that the player pleaded not guilty. The act was caught by a photographer, but not on video, with Stade unsuccessfully questioning the integrity of the image.

"His account skated over the period when his hand was clearly near and on Ferris' face and he declined to explain precisely what he was doing other than trying to move away from where he was," Blackett said in his decision.

"When he was shown the incriminating photographs and asked to explain what he saw or what was happening he replied that he did not know. He refused to accept the possibility that his finger was in the eye. It was this evasiveness which satisfied me that his account was less than truthful and that he knew that he had deliberately attacked the eyes of an opponent but was trying to evade responsibility."

Stade will appeal the ban and have reacted in a similar manner to Dupuy's sanction, described as "excessive, very political and anti-French" by club president Max Guazzini.

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