BOA stands by its laws despite Merritt's escape

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The Independent Online

While Britannia was standing defiant last night, determined not to waive the rules on drug cheats, cyclist David Millar and sprinter Dwain Chambers were pondering whether to wade in with legal challenges to the British Olympic Association's lifetime ban.

In the wake of the Court of Arbitration for Sport judgment yesterday that the International Olympic Committee rule barring returning doping offenders from one Olympic Games after their reinstatement was "invalid and unenforceable," the BOA resolved to uphold its by-law precluding athletes who have served bans of more than six months from Olympic selection.

"The BOA case is different, because they have a right of appeal, which the IOC didn't," Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, pointed out as the BOA prepared to write to the IOC to seek clarification that the CAS ruling would not "impact on the autonomy of National Olympic Committees." "I hope that will enable us to carry on continuing to enforce the BOA by-law and crucially that's what the athletes want; 95 per cent of them want this by-law to remain."

The validity of the IOC's "Rule 45" had been questioned by the United States Olympic Committee in light of the return from suspension this summer of LaShawn Merritt, who tested positive for steroids contained in a male enhancement product. The 400 metre runner will be free to defend his Olympic title in London next summer, but Millar and Chambers have to decide whether to challenge the BOA by-law.

"I have no idea what I am going to do," said Millar, who never tested positive for drugs but was banned for two years after confessing to having taken the blood-boosting agent EPO in 2004. "If it went to court I'm sure I would beat it but I'm also concerned about the haters crawling out of the woodwork. I've had enough of that. I have a lot of respect for Dave Brailsford [performance director of British Cycling] and the GB Squad and I don't want to cause any grief or negative press."

Chambers, who served a two-year ban after testing positive for a cocktail of banned substances in 2003, lost a fight for a High Court injunction on the eve of the Beijing Olympics three years ago. His agent, Siza Agha, said yesterday: "Dwain and I just want the opportunity to read, digest and review the reasoning."

Neither Chambers nor Millar has lodged an appeal directly with the BOA. There have been 32 appeals, 29 of them successful, such as that of Christine Ohuruogu after the 12-month suspension she served for missing three drugs tests. The three unsuccessful appeals have come from pole vaulter Janine Whitlock, shot putter Carl Myerscough and swimmer Mike Fibbens.

The by-law was adopted in 1992 at the behest of British athletes and Sir Steve Redgrave, the five-times Olympic rowing gold medallist, said last night that he stood behind it "wholeheartedly." Croydon Harrier Martyn Rooney, one of Merritt's rival 400m runners, tweeted: "Sad to hear that CAS have overturned the IOC ban, sport loses out to cheaters/lawyers."