Six Nations
Armitage handed eight-week ban
ESPNscrum Staff
January 20, 2011

Delon Armitage is set to miss the whole of England's Six Nations campaign after being hit with an eight-week ban in the wake of an altercation with an anti-doping official.

The London Irish fullback was found guilty of "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game" during a routine drugs test held after the Exiles' 25-24 Aviva Premiership defeat by Bath on January 1 when the 27-year-old was alleged to have pushed and used threatening and/or abusive and obscene language towards the officer. Armitage will not be eligible to play until March 16, three days before England's final fixture against Ireland in Dublin.

Armitage, who returned a negative sample, pleaded not guilty to the offence but was suspended and slammed by the RFU's disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett who branded his labelled his behaviour "completely unacceptable".

"His behaviour was completely unacceptable. It brought discredit on himself and his club and failed to uphold one of the core values of the game - respect. Doping control officers should expect to carry out their important work without fear of abuse and be treated with respect at all times. We took into account that it was not a violent push but more of a brush past and that was accepted by the doping control officer.

"We took the offences as a whole and, in line with the sanctions for abuse of match officials, we decided that a low end entry point of 12 weeks was appropriate. This was reduced to eight weeks on account of his remorse, his letter of apology to the doping control officer and his relatively good record."

Armitage lost his England place to Northampton's Ben Foden following a dip in form last season but he remained in manager Martin Johnson's plans for the Six Nations due to his versatility. As a result the news is a blow to manager Martin Johnson, who is already missing Lewis Moody, Tom Croft, Courtney Lawes and Dave Attwood for at least the first month of the tournament.

It also means that a total of 10 players who could have featured in the tournament-opening Wales v England clash on February 4 have been ruled out of the Millennium Stadium meeting. The hosts will be missing Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Richie Rees, Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop.

Armitage has won 19 England caps and is a member of Martin Johnson's elite player squad. He made his Test debut in 2008, and featured three times off the replacements' bench during England's autumn Test series this season.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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