- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

ROME (AP) - An Argentine rugby player has been banned for three years after tackling a female referee during an Italian league match.

Bruno Andres Doglioli violently barged over referee Maria Beatrice Benvenuti from behind during Sunday’s game between Vicenza and Valsugana.

Benvenuti gave Doglioli a yellow card for the off-the-ball incident. The 23-year-old referee was able to finish the match but was later taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with whiplash.

The Italian rugby federation handed Doglioli a three-year ban on Thursday - its heaviest punishment in the last 20 years. It is unlikely the 33-year-old Doglioli will play again professionally.

Vicenza had already suspended the player midweek.

“It’s an incident for which there is no justification whatsoever,” the club said in a statement. “It was a momentary loss of control by the player who, in decades of playing, has always behaved professionally and correctly.

“Bruno Doglioli, aware of the severity of what happened, wants to first of all send to referee Maria Beatrice Benvenuti his most sincere regrets. At the same time, he apologizes to his teammates, members of the club, sponsors and the fans for an incident, which risks damaging the image of this marvelous sport.”

Benvenuti is a respected referee. She officiated in the women’s sevens tournament at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this year and also took part in the 2014 Women’s World Cup.

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