Sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar should discover whether they have a chance of competing at next summer’s London Olympics by the end of April after the British Olympic Association announced that it had set the ball rolling in its legal battle to maintain its lifetime Olympic ban for former drug cheats.
The BOA has filed a formal appeal with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, challenging the decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) last month to declare the BOA “non-compliant” with its worldwide anti-doping code.
Wada has already stated that it will accept the jurisdiction of CAS to settle the dispute. The BOA said CAS was expected to deliver its verdict by the end of April.
The legal spat revolves around the BOA’s 19-year bylaw that excludes any British athlete guilty of a serious doping offence from competing at the Olympic Games in a GB vest.
Wada ruled that the BOA was non-compliant with its code, to which the BOA is a signatory, on the grounds that the lifetime exclusion amounted to a second punishment over and above the mandatory two-year suspension laid down by the code.
Wada’s edict followed a landmark legal ruling by CAS in September when the American athlete, LaShawn Merritt, overturned a similar International Olympic Committee rule which sought to ban any athlete who has served a ban of six months or more from taking part in the next Olympic Games. CAS said the rule was “invalid and unenforceable”.
The BOA, which will be represented at the CAS hearing by Lord Pannick QC, Adam Lewis QC and Tom Cassels, has steadfastly defended its bylaw on the grounds that it is a selection policy rather than an extra punishment. It also claims it has the overwhelming support of GB athletes.
Lord Moynihan, the BOA chairman, said: “We are appreciative of the expressions of support and encouragement we have received during the past few weeks, not the least of which have come from groups such as the BOA Athletes’ Commission, the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission and the European Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, whose members have added their voices to this important issue.
“We appreciate the opportunity to appear before CAS and explain why our selection policy is entirely consistent with the Olympic Charter, and why it is essential for National Olympic Committees to have the autonomy and independence to determine their own selection policies.”
In a statement, the BOA said: “The presence of athletes who deliberately cheat within Team GB would damage team morale, atmosphere and cohesiveness.
“It would also damage the credibility and reputation of the team in the eyes of the athletes and the public, and would send the wrong message to aspiring Olympians and new entrants to Olympic sport – particularly young people.
“Further, an athlete who deliberately cheats should not take the place in Team GB of a clean athlete, who has trained and competed in full adherence to the rules and without seeking an unfair advantage through the use of prohibited substances.”
By: Simon Hart