Stade Francais prop David Attoub to appeal 70-week ban
Attoub has been found to have made contact with Ferris' eye area
Stade Francais prop David Attoub has lodged an appeal against a 70-week ban handed out for gouging during a Heineken Cup game against Ulster.
The 28-year-old received the lengthy ban after being found guilty last week of making contact with the eye area of Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris.
The incident happened during a game at Ravenhill, Belfast, on 12 December.
The suspension, one of the longest in European rugby history for gouging, runs until 22 April 2011.
Judicial officer Jeff Blackett said in his judgement: "This is the worst act of contact with the eyes that I have had to deal with - it is a case of deliberate eye gouging which caused significant distress and some injury to the victim.
"The sanction must be such to make other players stop and think before someone suffers a really serious eye injury."
It was this evasiveness which satisfied me that [Attoub's] 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
Judicial officer Jeff Blackett
Blackett had adjourned Attoub's hearing on 18 December, imposing an immediate interim suspension on the player, who was reported by match citing commissioner Tony Lanaway.
The adjournment was to allow for more evidence to be gathered after Stade cast doubt as to the authenticity of a photograph showing the incident.
The hearing was reconvened last week, when Blackett heard evidence from both Attoub and Ferris.
Ferris told the hearing that "the contact was very strong and extremely painful - the finger in my right eye was forced downward in a poking and gouging motion; it was someone trying to drive a finger as hard as he could into my eye socket and I could not prevent it".
The written submission said Ferris "was very scared at the time and concerned as he had no way to defend himself", adding that "after the gouging he had difficulty in opening his eyes and then his vision was blurred".
In his judgement, Blackett was highly critical of Attoub, saying: "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.
"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.
Photographer relieved at picture ruling
"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."
It is the second longest ban to have been handed out for a gouging offence in the professional era.
Colomiers prop Richard Nones was given a two-year suspension in 1999 for gouging hooker Sven Cronk during a Heineken Cup match against Pontypridd.
Attoub's team-mate Julien Dupuy is serving a 23-week suspension for another gouging offence in the same match.
Dupuy was originally handed a 24-week ban before Christmas - with Ferris again having been on the receiving end - but that suspension was reduced by seven days following an appeal last week.
Ferris told the hearing that the Attoub incident was "much worse that the contact made by Dupuy with his eyes just moments earlier".
The former Leicester scrum-half Dupuy cannot play again until May and will miss the Six Nations Championship.
Stade are currently top of Pool 4 in this season's Heineken Cup and they play their final group game against Edinburgh on Saturday.
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