The British Olympic Association will call on the services of Adam Lewis, the QC who helped Wayne Rooney secure a reduction in his England ban, in an attempt to win its campaign to bar British athletes who have served a drugs ban, such as Dwain Chambers, from taking part in next summer's London Games.
The BOA yesterday formally submitted its application to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to challenge a recent decision by Wada, the world anti-doping authority, to find the controversial BOA by-law non-compliant with the world anti-doping code.
Wada and the BOA have agreed that the issue can only be settled by CAs and will bide by the Lausanne-based court's decision. The two parties are seeking to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible so selection for the Games is not disrupted. A decision in April is likely; selection for much of Team GB takes place in June and July.
If, as is expected, CAS finds against the BOA, the likes of Chambers and the cyclist David Millar would be eligible for Olympic selection. In October CAS ruled that the International Olympic Committee's doping rule barring athletes from competing in the next Olympics if they had served a ban of six months or more should be scrapped after an appeal by the US 400m runner LaShawn Merritt.
Lewis, one of the foremost experts on sports law, will play a key roll in the BOA's argument that their rule is not a sanction but a selection issue, that it "provides standards that determine whether an athlete is eligible for selection to Team GB for the Olympics." The BOA case will also say, according to a statement released yesterday, that having athletes who "deliberately cheat would damage team morale, atmosphere and cohesiveness. It would also damage the credibility and reputation of the team in the eyes of the athletes and the public. An athlete who deliberately cheats should not take the place of a clean athlete."
Colin Moynihan, the BOA chairman, said: "We appreciate the opportunity to explain why our selection policy is entirely consistent with the Olympic Charter and why it is essential for National Olympic Committees to have the independence to determine their own selection issues."
Lewis was part of the Football Association's legal team that convinced Uefa a three-game ban for Rooney for his sending off in a Euro 2012 qualifier was excessive. He also represented Sheffield United when they were awarded an estimated £15m damages against West Ham United over the Carlos Tevez affair. Lewis is no stranger to CAS or doping appeals either. His most remarkable result came when he persuaded the court that positive tests against two Belarus hammer throwers could not be relied upon scientifically. It led to the two having Beijing Olympic medals returned.
David Pannick QC, an expert in human rights and sports law, and Tom Cassels, who acted for the BOA in its successful defence of a legal appeal by Chambers against the ban, make up the legal team.