Rugby flanker Armitage protests innocence in doping case

26 July 2012 04:46

Toulon's England international flanker Steffon Armitage on Thursday protested his innocence after testing positive for a product on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) banned list, albeit one which could be construed as having therapeutic qualities.

"I am going to keep my head held high as I have done nothing wrong," insisted Armitage a day after Rugbyrama, the website of French daily Midi Olympique, reported he had tested for Doliprane codeine - a simple painkiller, in this case for back pain.

The test came following Toulon's June 9 Top 14 final loss to Toulouse at Stade de France.

The product can be taken with written medical authorisation as a therapeutic treatment but in Armitage's case such authorisation was not forthcoming, according to the report, emanating from sources at Midi Olympique whose next edition appears Friday.

Armitage's urine sample showed an abnormally high reading of morphine after the 18-12 loss to Toulouse but he remained defiant even though he faces having to appear before the French Rugby Federation's anti-doping commission on August 21.

"I know things will soon get sorted out, that I will be able to move on and come back stronger.

The player's manager, Bernard Laporte, said the club would demand a hearing as soon as possible and before August 21.

"They are telling us he won't be able to play the opening match of the season as perhaps there is something" to answer for, said Laporte, who regretted that the affair appeared to have become something of a media circus and was being in his eyes blown out of all proportion.

Toulon chairman Mourad Boudjellal told AFP it appeared that the product, once ingested, had partially become transformed into morphine, a banned substance.

Boudjellal said that the painkiller had been prescribed to Armitage by "doctor Jean-Baptiste Grisoli, who is also doctor to the French national team."

For another of the club's doctors, Pascale Lambrechts, there appeared to be a misunderstanding based on the quantity of the dose.

"What they are probably rapping Steffon for is that he said he took two tablets of Dafalgan codeine when they asked him how many he had taken. He will have declared the number of tablets he took during the day, forgetting to say he had taken some across the week," Lambrechts told a press conference.

"This accumulation explains the level of morphine found."

"To the extent that the product was given him by the club doctor then it is not a case of self-medication and becomes the equivalent of a medical prescription," Lambrechts told AFP.