UK in final bid to keep dopers off Olympic team

March 12, 2012 - 4:27 PM
Turkey Athletics Indoor Worlds

Britain's Dwain Chambers competes in a Men's 60m first round heat during the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, March 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

LONDON (AP) — Britain's attempt to keep drug cheats off its Olympic teams reached world sport's top court on Monday, less than five months before the London Games.

No other country enforces lifetime bans for dopers and, during a five-hour hearing, the British Olympic Association challenged the World Anti-Doping Agency's assertion that its code is now violated by the 20-year sanction.

Using a lawyer who has successfully represented Queen Elizabeth II, the BOA argued that it should have the right to keep out dopers just like it would refuse to include convicted match-fixers or proven racists.

If the Court of Arbitration for Sport adjudicates against the BOA next month, sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar would become eligible to compete at home in the games, which run from July 27 to Aug. 12.

While IOC President Jacques Rogge backs the BOA, IAAF head Lamine Diack came out in support of Chambers on Monday.

BOA chairman Colin Moynihan believes life bans are essential in protecting the integrity of the Olympics, arguing that the games should be "a big celebration of sport and not a competition between chemists' laboratories."

"When you are selected for Team GB for the Olympic Games, it is the pinnacle of your career and it stands for an Olympic charter and Olympic values which differentiate the Olympic Games from any other sporting activity," Moynihan said after the hearing.

The BOA — whose legal team is headed by David Pannick — maintains that its doping bylaw is an eligibility issue and not a second sanction after an initial doping ban, as deemed by WADA.

"The most comparable (case) would be match-fixing. If somebody was proven to be involved in match-fixing, I'm sure the British Olympic Association would take a very tough line and would not select them," Moynihan said. "(Also) any overt racist behavior that damaged the morale and performances of teammates or the team would be unacceptable in the British Olympic Association."

But Britain's stance has been under threat since the same three-man panel that heard Monday's case last year threw out an IOC rule barring athletes with doping suspensions of more than six months from the next games.

The IOC's defeat at CAS was followed by WADA declaring Britain "noncompliant" with its global code.

The BOA still retains the support of the International Olympic Committee president.

"We had a similar stance ... on the principles, we believe it is an important matter on eligibility," Rogge told The Associated Press in Lausanne, Switzerland. "And the governing bodies like the British Olympic Association or the IOC should have their say in the eligibility of the athletes."

But the world athletics' governing body wants Chambers to be eligible to compete in London. A bronze medal winner in the 60 meters at the world indoor championships on Saturday, Chambers served a two-year ban after testing positive for the steroid THG in 2003.

"He made an error, he paid (for it)," IAAF President Diack told the AP in Istanbul. "Now he should resume his career ... nothing should be as definitive as this (BOA sanction). I think there should always be room for rehabilitation."

WADA director general David Howman wants the eligibility rules to be standardized.

"WADA was established ... so that all the rules relating to doping in sport would be the same," Howman told British broadcaster ITV. "(The BOA rule) destroys harmony and so you have got athletes in one particular country who are subject to harder rules than you would have in other countries."

There is a risk that the unity of the British team could be harmed if Chambers and Millar force their way back into contention.

Millar was suspended in 2004 for two years after testing positive for the blood-boosting agent EPO, while Chambers failed to obtain an injunction against the BOA ban in 2008 at London's High Court in order to compete at the Beijing Games.

"Both of them have campaigned strongly now against drugs in sport, but they have campaigned in full knowledge that our selection policy has not changed," Moynihan said.

Moynihan will submit proposals for a reform of WADA's doping code later this week.

"We need tougher sanctions — the two-year sanction ... is to all intents and purposes ineffective," he said. "We will also be reinforcing our belief that over and above those sanctions, national Olympic committees should have the autonomy to determine selection policies and take into account issues such as team morale and integrity when determining selection."

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AP Sports Writers Steve Wilson in Lausanne, Switzerland, Raf Casert in Istanbul and Steve Douglas in London contributed to this report.

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Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarrisUK