Court rules that Britain's lifetime Olympic ban on drug cheats is wrong
CAS says that BOA's stance incompatible with that of WADA
Ruling opens the door for disgraced athletes Dwain Chambers and David Millar
Sprinter Chambers may now compete in 100 meters alongside Usain Bolt
The British Olympic Association (BOA) has lost a court ruling that could lead to several high-profile athletes – previously banned for doping offenses – competing at London 2012.
The Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS), a body based in Switzerland that adjudicates on grievances within the sporting world, ruled that the BOA’s policy of issuing a lifetime Olympic ban for anyone who fails a drug test was incompatible with the rules set down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“(The BOA’s policy) is a doping sanction and is therefore not in compliance with the WADA Code,” CAS said in a statement confirming its ruling on Monday.
“CAS confirms the view of WADA … Therefore, the appeal of BOA is rejected, and the decision of WADA is confirmed.”
The BOA’s stance on drug cheats was far harsher than that of WADA.
The world anti-doping organization’s rules only allow for a two-year ban from international competition if an athlete is found guilty of taking performance-enchanting drugs, but the BOA has insisted on banning drug cheats from the Olympics for life.
“The BOA is clearly very disappointed,” said an unhappy Colin Moynihan, chair of the BOA. “This can be seen as a hollow victory for WADA.”
Although Moynihan stressed that the BOC will now change its rules to comply with WADA’s code, he also vowed to “lead in a global campaign to see fundamental and far-reaching reform of WADA.”
The judgment has opened the door for the likes of sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar to join Team GB ahead of the July 27-August 12 Olympic Games.
Chambers was once the golden boy of British sprinting, with high hopes of emulating Linford Christie in winning an Olympic medal at the 100 meters.
But Chambers, who was working with the disgraced nutritionist Victor Conte, failed a routine drug test for the banned substance THG in 2003 and was banned from competing in the Olympics for life by the BOA.
After abortive attempts at finding a new career in both American football and rugby league, Chambers returned to the track but was seen as a pariah figure, dividing opinions among fellow athletes.
“He (Conte) led me to believe that they (other athletes) had an unfair advantage,” he told CNN in 2009 when asked about how his drug taking had begun.
“I did notice the ability to keep on training like a machine. I wasn’t tired. Although I ran a tenth of a second quicker, in my eyes, what I did on the program I could have done naturally anyway. I don’t honestly believe it (THG) helped me in any way, shape or form.”
Chambers revealed that Conte had prescribed a cocktail of up to 300 drugs and that, by the time he had gone through the shame of having his medals stripped from him, he had contemplated suicide.
“I thought about it,” he said. “I was never bold enough to do it. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to show my face anymore …. I thought be brave and carry on or end it.”
Millar is another who may now qualify for London 2012. Considered by many within the sport to be one of the finest road cyclists Britain has ever produced, Millar was found guilty in 2004 of using the banned substance EPO.
He was handed a two-year ban but has come back strongly, captaining Team GB to gold in last year’s UCI Road World Championships.
“I am a professional cyclist, and Olympic athlete, a Tour de France star, a world champion – and a drugs cheat,” Millar wrote in his award-winning autobiography “Racing Through The Dark,” before admitting: “And I want to start again.”
While both men have yet to qualify for either of their disciplines, the BOA confirmed that they would now be eligible for London 2012 if they make the grade.
“Athletes such as Millar and Chambers will be eligible for formal selection for Team GB at the Olympic Games as long as they meet that eligibility criteria,” said Moynihan.
“They will be treated just the same as any other athlete … There will be no two-tier team.”
However it will be several weeks before it’s known if Millar or Chambers, not to mention six other British athletes found guilty of doping offenses in recent years, will be picked for Team GB.
“Our team for the Games is being selected in June and across all disciplines we’ll pick the team based on which riders are fit and available, and who we believe have the best chance to deliver medals,” said a spokesperson for British Cycling.
“Ahead of that we won’t be speculating on who may or may not be selected.”