Chambers fails to overturn Olympics ban

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The Independent Online

British sprinter Dwain Chambers' dreams of competing in next month's Beijing Olympics were dashed today.

The drugs cheat's hopes of being selected for Team GB, just hours before final selection closes, ended not on the track but with an 80-minute legal judgment read out at the High Court by Mr Justice Mackay.

Under British Olympic Association (BOA) rules, Chambers was banned from future Games after serving a two-year suspension testing positive for the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) in 2003.

The judge refused to grant an injunction temporarily suspending this lifetime Olympic ban imposed under a BOA bylaw.

Chambers, 30, who had achieved the Olympic qualifying time for the 100m and clocked 10 seconds in winning last week's British trials for a team place, had argued that to stop him from competing was unfair, an excessive punishment and an unreasonable restraint on trade.

His legal team said it was irrational and disproportionate that the BOA, one of only a few international Olympic bodies to take a hard line against domestic drug offenders, should impose a lifetime Olympic ban on Chambers.

His legal team lost on every point.

Chambers, widely regarded as a natural talent, remained tight-lipped after the judgment, which could mark the end of a promising career blighted by controversy.

It was left to his lawyer Nick Collins to state how "very disappointed" Chambers felt about the result.

Mr Collins said: "The difficulty of challenging the rules of a governing body was always going to be tough."

He added that for the moment no decisions on any future action have been taken.

Minutes after his victory, Lord Moynihan, the BOA chairman, walked across the court to a seated Chambers and shook his hand.

Lord Moynihan then quietly had a few words with him before leaving with the BOA's legal team.

On the court steps, Lord Moynihan said: "The British Olympic Association (BOA) has rules which are not only recognised and understood by all Olympic athletes, but our bylaw has been in place for 16 years at their request and for their benefit.

"I have to say that it is a matter of regret that Dwain Chambers - an athlete with such undoubted talent, a winner of the European Youth Olympic Festival 100m as a young man - should by his own actions have put himself out of the running to shine on the Olympic stage in Beijing."

"However, on behalf of the athletes the BOA will continue to send a powerful and important message that nobody found guilty of serious drug cheating offences should have the honour of wearing a Team GB vest at the Olympic Games."

The BOA had claimed that Team GB could be branded a squad of drug cheats if Chambers were allowed to run, and that his presence could damage team spirit within the squad and hurt the money-raising prospects of the London 2012 Olympics.

The bylaw safeguarded the health of athletes, was supported by the great majority of athletes themselves, and tackles cheating in sport, they claimed.

Put simply Chambers' argument was that "I have done my time and I am entitled to move on", the court was told.

Chambers admitted using the drug, together with six other prohibited substances over an 18-month period.

Mr Justice Mackay noted that he is now a clean athlete, who denounces doping and that some people could argue that makes him a good role model.

The judge began his ruling by praising Chambers' "substantial record of past success".

The judge said: "He has since remained drug free and indeed has spoken against drug taking in sport."

Even if Chambers had won the temporary injunction, Chambers would not have been interested in arguing the full issues at a trial set for March as the result would be academic to him - he would be too old for the London Olympics in 2012.

"The prospect of there being a full trial is unlikely in the extreme," said Mr Justice Mackay.

The judge pointed out that the International Olympic Committee issued a new rule that anyone who had served more than a six-month ban for doping may not compete in the following edition of the Games.

It followed, said the BOA, that under the new rule, Chambers would have been excluded anyway.

The judge said he had to consider whether a court or the BOA was better placed to decide whether there should be a law that athletes proved to have cheated over drugs are not appropriate or proper people to represent their country given the terms of the IOC charter.

Mr Justice Mackay said he did not accept any of the reasons put forward by Chambers on why he should lift the bylaw and would have considered denying relief anyway because of the delay in bringing the claim.

Today's hearing came at the 11th-hour as time was very tight for selection for Beijing.

UK Athletics (UKA) will name their squad, including the sprinters to fill the last two spots for the 100m and also the 4x100m relay, tomorrow.

Claire Furlong of UKA, the governing body of track and field, also said the time has now come to focus on the athletes who will be going to the Games.

After the hearing she said: "We have always maintained our support for the bylaw and are delighted it has been upheld in this instance."

IOC communications director Giselle Davies welcomed the judgment saying: "We believe in a zero-tolerance approach to athletes who take banned drugs."

The decision also received support from many of Britain's top sport stars and anti-doping chiefs.

Former Olympic heptathlon champ Denise Lewis described it as a "a very fair verdict".

Mark Foster, who will swim in his fifth Olympics in the 50m event in Beijing, said: "I think the verdict is absolutely right and it is very sad that someone like Dwain, who has a great natural talent, chose to disqualify himself by taking drugs."