Dwain Chambers will hear this morning whether his High Court bid to swerve round a lifetime ban from the Olympics in time to compete in the Beijing Games has been successful.
An athlete defined by his speed was required to be a restless spectator throughout four hours of unresolved debate in Court No 76 yesterday as his counsel, Jonathan Crystal, sought an injunction that would temporarily free his client from the British Olympic Association's by-law rendering serious doping offenders ineligible for future Games.
After hearing Crystal's opening arguments, Mr Justice Mackay made it clear he would not be delivering a decision until today – so there will be no time for any appeals on either side before tomorrow night's deadline for the British Olympic team, the names of which will be handed over to the Beijing organisers. Timing could yet turn out to be key in this case. The BOA have protested that this application "at the 11th hour" has made it impossible for them to make any alterations to their by-law if it is found to be overly harsh.
David Pannick QC, representing the BOA, suggested that Chambers – who had first indicated his intention to contest the by-law in February when he returned to the sport from a stint in rugby league – might have timed himself out of contention.
Should Mr Justice Mackay find that the by-law – imposed unilaterally in 1992 – is disproportionate, a likely compromise might be found in the position recently reached by the International Olympic Committee itself, which has ruled that, as from 1 July this year, any serious doping offender will be ineligible for the next Games which occur after they have completed their ban. Such a ruling, of course, would make Chambers eligible for the London 2012 Games.
Both parties have agreed that the full case against the BOA by-law can be held in March next year, but the importance of the current deliberations has been heightened by an acceptance that, effectively, that court case is not going to happen. If Chambers wins his injunction, he will not return to the courts to overturn the by-law for good. If he loses, there will be even less incentive to do so.
Chambers is gambling on the argument that the BOA penalty represents a disproportionate and unfair restraint of trade, given that it would not apply in any other country except perhaps Denmark or China. His counsel maintained yesterday that, having served a two-year ban for taking the banned steroid THG, Chambers should be allowed to carry on with his career untrammelled. "As the man in the street might put it," Crystal said, "it's a case of, 'You've done your time, you are entitled to move on'. But the BOA is saying, 'You've done your time and as far as we are concerned, you can't move on'."
Crystal added that if the 30-year-old sprinter does not succeed in getting to Beijing "he walks, we say, into the sunset. If he does, it will be the spring-board for fuller and better opportunities." Pannick said the organisation was not mounting a campaign against Chambers, but defending their right, as enshrined in IOC by-laws, to decide upon the composition of their Olympic representatives.
l Kathy Cook's 27-year-old British women's 100m record was finally broken yesterday, Montell Douglas clocking 11.05sec in the LEAP Meeting at Loughborough. The Londoner, 22, had been chasing an Olympic qualifying time of 11.30sec but eclipsed the 11.10sec recorded by Cook in Rome in 1981.Reuse content