• British Olympic Association insists it has 'strong case'
• Verdict could open London 2012 door to Dwain Chambers
The British Olympic Association will appear before the court of arbitration for sport on Monday in an attempt to uphold its lifetime doping ban, insisting it has a "strong case" despite most sports lawyers expecting it to lose.
If the Cas panel in London fails to uphold the BOA's appeal against the World Anti-Doping Agency's decision to find the ban noncompliant with its universal code, it will open the door for the sprinter Dwain Chambers and the cyclist David Millar to be picked for London 2012.
Opponents of the lifetime ban have long argued that it offers no opportunity of redemption for repentant drug cheats and is counterproductive because it punishes those who admit they took drugs and inform on others.
Chambers, who won a bronze medal in the 60m sprint at the world indoor championships in Istanbul at the weekend, said after the race that it would be "fantastic" if he became eligible for the London Games.
"I am living proof that you can make mistakes and get yourself back on the straight and narrow, and my being able to compete at this top level is living proof that it can be done. It is my opportunity to give back to the youth," he said.
The case has become a volatile mixture of dry legal argument and intense emotion, with much riding on the outcome. Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman, said Chambers should not be allowed to compete in the Olympics.
"For me this is not anti-Dwain Chambers … I do believe this is actually about the autonomy of sporting organisations to make judgments and bylaws that they think are in the best interest of their sports," Coe told reporters in Istanbul.
"I have a problem if individual sports, individual organisations are not able to set those parameters because I think it is really important they are responding to what they think is the right [thing]. I do think an NOC [national Olympic committee], ie the BOA, must have the right to agree that sanction if they think it is in the common interest of the sport," the twice Olympic 1500m champion added.
Current and former athletes have weighed in, with Chambers's agent Siza Agha this week accusing Daley Thompson of talking "utter garbage" in a newspaper column in which he backed the BOA's lifetime ban and criticised Wada.
"I have the greatest respect for Daley as an athlete, but I do think that they need to be more sophisticated before they start levelling criticism at the very people who are charged with the responsibility of trying to police it," he said.
Both Chambers and Millar, the latter banned in 2004 for two years after admitting to EPO use and subsequently an eloquent anti-doping campaigner, are expected to be selected for the Olympics if Wada's decision is upheld.
Wada is adamant that it was right to find the BOA noncompliant with its code, because the victory of the US Olympic Committee and the Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt over the International Olympic Committee in a case before the Cas last year changed the game.
Its lawyers are convinced that the "double jeopardy" argument that overturned the IOC's "Osaka rule", which banned any athlete with a suspension of more than six months from the Olympics that followed, is directly analogous to the BOA life ban bylaw. It believes the universality that underpins its code is at risk.
The BOA, though, argues that its rule simply underpins its autonomy to select its own team. The BOA chairman, Lord Moynihan, will argue that the rule retains the support of the vast majority of athletes and that, crucially, its bylaw has an appeal mechanism that the IOC's lacked.
However, the support of athletes for the lifetime ban appears to have become more nuanced. Whereas the BOA's own polls previously put the number in support at more than nine in 10, a recent ITV survey found the figure was more like 70%.
"We believe we have a strong case and we appreciate the opportunity to appear before the panel and explain why fundamentally this is about the autonomy of every national Olympic committee to enforce their eligibility criteria," said a BOA spokesman.
Shortly before announcing it would take the case to Cas, Moynihan launched a typically impassioned attack on Wada, claiming it was "toothless" and failing in its anti-doping mission. That provoked an equally furious response from Wada, with the chairman, John Fahey, labelling Moynihan "misinformed and inaccurate".
Most sports lawyers expect Wada to win, but say it is not a foregone conclusion, putting the odds at around 70-30 in its favour. The BOA asked for the same Cas panel that heard the Merritt case to preside over its hearing in the belief they would better understand the nuances of their case.
Unusually, the case is being heard in London rather than Lausanne. The BOA will be represented by two QCs, David Pannick and Adam Lewis, together with Tom Cassels of Baker & McKenzie. Pannick and Lewis are understood to have waived a substantial percentage of their usual fee to take the case.
Whatever the verdict when it is announced in around four weeks' time, the argument will not end here. Wada's code is going through its quadrennial review process and the IOC and the BOA will argue for stronger sanctions for those caught doping.
By Owen Gibson and Andy Bull in Istanbul