Chambers' Olympic hopes head for court

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The Independent Online

The phoney war between Dwain Chambers and the British Olympic Association finally came to an end yesterday as lawyers for the sprinter filed legal papers seeking to overturn the Association's bylaw which renders Chambers, and other athletes who have served significant doping bans, ineligible for the Games.

Chambers, who went to the top of the domestic sprint rankings last Saturday with a 100m time of 10.05sec – well inside the Olympic qualifying mark – will hope the BOA agrees to hold the case in the High Court next week. The Olympic trials start in Birmingham in a week's time, and the final deadline for Olympic selection falls on 20 July.

A statement from Chambers' legal team said: "The question the court is asked to decide is whether the BOA bylaw in relation to persons found guilty of a doping offence is void and unenforceable against first-time offenders.

"Mr Chambers will seek, from the court, a declaration that the bylaw is unenforcable; a declaration that he is eligible for inclusion in Team GB for Beijing 2008; and an order that, subject to his achieving first or second place at the UK trials, he be included in Team GB for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games."

The statement added: "The basis of Mr Chambers' claim is that the bylaw is an unreasonable restraint of trade in that it goes further than is reasonably necessary for protecting the interests of BOA and the public; and further, that the bylaw is inherently unfair and unreasonable given the surrounding circumstances."

Chambers' barrister, Jonathan Crystal, will need to convince the judge at the hearing, which may last two days and cost around £200,000, that the BOA regulation is unfair. The BOA, which brought in its bylaw unilaterally in 1992, has been expecting this development for the last four months and there is frustration within the organisation that this legal challenge has been delayed until now.

The idea that the Association might ask for more time, effectively attempting to filibuster Chambers out of contention for Beijing, has not been ruled out. But it is aware that influential figures within the sport, notably Dick Pound, the former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, believe their bylaw will not stand up to legal challenge.

There has been talk within BOA circles of holding the moral high ground. That may be true, but there are uneasy echoes of the stance adopted by UK Athletics as it backed away from preventing Chambers contesting a place at the World Indoor Championships in March.

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