Inside Lines: Seconds out as legal eagles take up their sporting briefs

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The Independent Online

The ever-growing legion of lawyers specialising in sport will be earning their corn in the coming weeks – and doubtless there will be plenty of it. Michael Beloff QC, recognised as a champion of alleged sporting injustices, is representing Team GB's teenage rhythmic gymnasts as they appeal to the Sports Resolutions panel over being ruled out of London 2012 by their own governing body when they missed the qualifying mark by a fraction. Tomorrow week, Lord David Pannick will be appearing for the British Olympic Association and their chairman, fellow peer Lord Colin Moynihan at the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) in a bid to maintain the lifetime ban on drugs cheats from ever competing in the Games. It was Pannick, whose clients have included the Queen and the Government, who successfully argued the BOA's case for banning athlete Dwain Chambers in 2008, but with the World Anti-Doping Agency now arguing that such strictures are "non-compliant", this will be a hard one even for him to win. Two days later in Cardiff the British Boxing Board of Control, whose stewards include several QCs, put Dereck Chisora in the dock for his misdemeanours at his heavyweight title fight in Munich. Chisora hired another renowned sports silk Jonathan Crystal QC, whose clients include Don King, to fight his corner. Seconds out, m'luds.

Grappling with a problem

One legal decision the BOA will not be appealing is that by the Home Office to deny passports to two "plastic Brits", female wrestlers Yana Stadnik and Olga Butkevych, both from Ukraine, so that they could compete for Britain in the Olympics. Nor is it likely that Home Secretary Theresa May will be receptive to any request from British Wrestling for her to intervene. Attempts to qualify the pair – one of whom is married to a British wrestler – have caused disquiet among home wrestlers, especially as three of the five-strong men's squad are from eastern Europe. British Wrestling strongly deny there have been marriages of convenience. Yet the growing practice of recruiting athletes with tenuous links to Britain is causing concern at Government level.

Brits won't skirt the issue

According to AIBA, the governing body of world amateur boxing, women can decide for themselves whether they want to wear skirts or shorts in the ring following an online petition of some 50,000 signatures against the proposal to enforce skirts. But don't expect to see British girls in the skirts designed by pro fighter Laura Saperstein. "The only people who want to see women in skirts are men," says British lightweight champion Natasha Jonas, and European flyweight champ Nicola Adams adds: "You don't see female footballers going around in a skirt."

Jose and his 'big deals'

Jose Sulaiman, the president the World Boxing Council, said recently of Floyd Mayweather Jnr's conviction for hitting a woman that it was "no big deal" and should not affect any fight with Manny Pacquiao – for which the WBC would receive a hefty sanction fee. Last week the 81-year-old's Mexico-based WBC banned Chisora indefinitely, calling his conduct in Munich "the worst-ever by a professional". Isn't this the same man who, a couple of years ago, personally changed the result of a fight from a points win to a draw, then punched, kicked and swore at a British journalist who said this might appear dodgy?