London 2012: BOA defends lifetime ban on drug cheats

British Olympic Association vows to maintain hard line over by-law which bans drugs cheats from the Games

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
colin moynihan
Moynihan has vowed to fight to keep in place the BOA's by-law PA Photos

colin moynihan

Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, has promised to fight to keep in place the by-law which prevents British athletes who have received drug bans from competing at the Olympics.

For over two decades Team GB have maintained a strict rule which prevents any athlete convicted of a doping offence from ever competing at the Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration in Sport (Cas) on Thursday dismissed as “unenforceable” the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) own softer rule, which had barred any athlete who has received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next Games.

Cas’s ruling means that American track star LaShawn Merritt can now defend his Olympic 400m title in London next year.

And legal experts now believe the likes of British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who has already once failed to overturn his Olympic ban for testing positive for steroids in 2003, could contest the BOA’s by-law.

Moynihan, however, has vowed to maintain a hard-line approach. “It is tough, but it is fair,” he told a news conference. “Fundamentally, the by-law addresses ineligibility and is not a sanction.

“It recognises there is an important difference between intentionally breaking the rules, by wilfully engaging in cheating through doping, and making a simple error. It is, in that sense, proportional.

“Of greatest importance, it has a strong appeal mechanism to ensure all the circumstances are taken into the account.

“It provides a route to protect those who inadvertently or unintentionally make a mistake, those who do not cheat their fellow team members.”

Moynihan said that the BOA has the full support of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) over the validity of the rule.

“Wada have written to us and assured us that our by-law is in line with the 2009 world anti-doping code,” he continued.

“That is the critical and fundamental difference between our eligibility by-law, which is absolutely in line with the Wada code, and the findings that emerged this morning in the IOC case, where their position was deemed unlawful and contrary to Wada because it proposed an additional sanction.”

“This is a by-law that was introduced with the support of the athletes, for the athletes.

“Ever since it was introduced nearly 20 years ago it has consistently had over 90 per cent support from British athletes who want a clean Games, who want to make sure that those who are eligible to represent Team GB at the Olympics are clean.”

The BOA chairman added that it was a “sorry day” for the IOC – and that he expects president Jacques Rogge to be disappointed with Thursday’s landmark ruling.

“Jacques Rogge has fought, ever since he came into sport, to eradicate doping – and I’m sure he and his colleagues will very much regret the fact that their rule is not in place for London 2012,” he added.

Sarah Winckless, the former rower who heads the BOA’s athletes commission, confirmed that Moynihan’s position is supported by the vast majority of British Olympians.

“It is massively important that we keep checking with the athletes about this law,” she said. “The overwhelming support is significant. It’s 90 per cent plus every single time we ask the athletes.

“It’s just so key that we send out the message about how important it is to our athletes that we want a clean team and we want a clean sport.

“It’s also very important that we do have the good appeals process. If there are mitigating circumstances they will be listened to.”

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