London - England full-back Delon Armitage's chances of appearing in this season's Six Nations were all but ended on Thursday after he lost his appeal against an eight-week ban for abusing an anti-doping official.
Armitage can play again on March 17 - but as that is just two days before England conclude their Six Nations campaign against Ireland, he is highly unlikely to be selected by manager Martin Johnson for the match in Dublin.
The London Irish back was banned for "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the sport" following an incident where he was alleged to have pushed an anti-doping officer after the Exiles' game against Bath on New Year's Day.
The 27-year-old Armitage challenged what he said was a "disproportionate" ban but appeal panel chairman Ian Unsworth said they were in no doubt the original hearing had reached the correct verdict.
"We came to the conclusion that having regard to the seriousness of this matter and considering the aggravating and mitigating features that the decision and sanction reached by the original panel was fair, reasonable and one which they were entitled to," Unsworth said in a Rugby Football Union (RFU) statement.
"Armitage was aggressive, bullying, persistent and threatening. He subjected the Doping Control Officer to a volley of abuse and he deserved better than that."
Trinidad-born Armitage, who returned a negative test, has won 19 England caps and had been named in Johnson's squad for the Six Nations although he had lost his place in the starting line-up to Ben Foden last season.
England, who beat Wales 26-19 in Cardiff last week, face Italy at Twickenham in the second round of the Six Nations on Saturday.