Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter, introduced by the International Olympic Committee following the Beijing Games, barred any athlete who had received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next summer or winter games.
But the United States Olympic Committee challenged the position, claiming it was punishing athletes twice for the same crime and went beyond World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions of a maximum two-year suspension.
The three-man Cas panel – composed of Professor Richard McLaren, David Rivkin and Michele Bernasconi – came to the conclusion that rule 45 was not in compliance with the WADA code, which is also part of the IOC’s governing statute.
In a statement, the panel said: “The IOC Executive Boardâ€™s June 27, 2008 decision prohibiting athletes who have been suspended for more than six months for an anti-doping rule violation from participating in the next Olympic Games following the expiration of their suspension is invalid and unenforceable.”
Merritt tested positive for banned substances DHEA and pregnenolone, which he claimed were present in his system as a result of ingesting a sex enhancement product called ExtenZe. He returned to international competition earlier this year after completing a 21-month ban.
He is seen as the major beneficiary of the binding Cas decision but British sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar may now be emboldened to challenge the British Olympic Association’s current much more hardline lifetime ban for all those convicted of doping offences.
BOA chairman Colin Moynihan has stated his desire to defend Team GB’s unique regulations, claiming the Olympic Charter gives national Olympic committees the right to set eligibility rules for their teams while Chambers lost a High Court challenge to overturn his BOA ban in 2008.
Millar, who has become a powerful advocate for clean sport after his two-year ban concluded in 2006, has never challenged his suspension but today praised the decision as “a good thing for future of international sport”.
He added: “It’s only a matter of time till all countries respect WADA code.”
The news is a major blow to IOC president Jacques Rogge, whose organisation reiterated their “zero tolerance against doping” and admitted their “disappointment” the court, sport’s highest legal authority, had not ruled in their favour.
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news