Six-month ban for Dupuy
France scrum-half set to miss Six Nations after being found guilty of eye-gouging
Last Updated: 19/12/09 6:08pm
Dupuy: Six-month ban
Stade Francais scrum-half Julien Dupuy has been suspended for six months for an eye-gouging incident which occurred in last weekend's Heineken Cup match against Ulster.
An independent disciplinary hearing in Dublin ruled that Dupuy, who turns 26 on Saturday, should be suspended up to and including June 3, 2010 - effectively bringing his season to an end.
The player, who has six caps for France, was cited following an attack on Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris which occurred during the two sides' Pool Four match at Ravenhill last Saturday.
After considering the evidence, independent judicial officer Judge Jeff Blackett decided the incident was the most serious for an offence of its type and handed Dupuy a six-month suspension.
The maximum sanction available is a three-year ban.
A statement issued by European Rugby Cup (ERC) said: "After considering the evidence, the independent judicial officer Jeff Blackett (England), determined Julien Dupuy was guilty of foul play in contravention of Law 10.4 (l) in that he made contact with the eye/eye area of Ulster Rugby player Stephen Ferris.
"The judicial officer found it was at the top end in the level of seriousness for an offence of this type.
"Having taken into account any mitigating and aggravating factors the independent judicial officer suspended the player for a period of 24 weeks running up to and including 3 June, 2010."
However, Blackett ruled that further evidence needed to be considered in the case of Stade replacement prop David Attoub, who was also cited for eye-gouging in the match.
His hearing has therefore been adjourned until a date to be confirmed in January, although an interim suspension has been imposed until an outcome is reached.
The length of the ban suggests the authorities are stepping up the fight against eye-gouging after some high-profile cases in recent months.
South Africa lock Schalk Burger received an eight-week ban for gouging Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald in the second British and Irish Lions Test this summer, as did Italy captain Sergio Parisse, who committed the same offence in a match against New Zealand in June.
Dupuy, who is his country's first-choice scrum-half and who now appears certain to miss the Six Nations, nevertheless has the right to appeal against the ban.
Both players had already apologised and been penalised by Stade, who also issued an official apology over the incident.
The decision was later slammed by Stade president Max Guazzini, who called it "excessive, very political and anti-French".
He added: "The ERC wanted to make an example of a symbolic player of Stade Francais and of the French team which has never had a disciplinary problem.
"It's not normal that a private organisation in Ireland prevents a club employee from working, from playing. It is we who pay him."
Meanwhile, French national coach Marc Lievremont said he wanted Stade to appeal the ban.
"We expected the worse and the worse thing has happened to Julien because six months is huge," he said.
"I hope there is an appeal and that the ban is replaced by something more reasonable."
Ulster, who won last weekend's ill-tempered match 23-13, play Stade Francais in the return match in Brussels on Saturday.