Stade Francais prop David Attoub has had his 70-week ban for eye gouging reduced to 52 weeks by France’s Olympic Committee (CNOSF).
Attoub was handed the suspension for gouging Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris in a Heineken Cup clash between the two sides at Ravenhill in December.
His appeal against the decision was rejected by Heineken Cup organisers European Rugby Cup, but he then chose to appeal to the CNOSF, the top legal body for sport in France.
They proposed that the ban be reduced by 18 weeks, and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) have accepted that proposal.
The outcome means the 29-year-old will now be able to play in France’s domestic Top 14 competition from December 18 of this year, his ban had been scheduled to run until April 23, 2011.
A statement on the Stade Francais website, www.stade.fr, read: “The federal office of the FFR accepted reducing the suspension of David Attoub from 70 to 52 weeks.
“The federal office of the French Federation of Rugby accepted the suggestion of the CNOSF to bring back the suspension of David Attoub to 52 weeks in the matter of national competitions.
“The prop will therefore be able to play again before the end of 2010.”
Attoub’s actions were labelled by judicial officer Jeff Blackett as “the worst act of contact with the eyes” he had seen at the time of the initial disciplinary hearing.
Despite the reduction the ban remains the second-longest handed out for a gouging offence, with only Colomiers prop Richard Nones' two-year ban in 1999 exceeding that duration.
The ruling has echoes of the precedent set by the case of Perpignan hooker Marius Tincu during the 2008/09 season.
The Romania international was handed an 18-week ban after being found guilty of gouging Ospreys prop Paul James in a Heineken Cup clash between the two sides.
Perpignan threatened to pull out of the Heineken Cup over the ruling, and their own appeal to the CNOSF saw Tincu allowed to resume playing in the Top 14, although he remained banned from cross-border competition.