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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chambers case is heading back to court

The British Olympic Association are set to announce their intention to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport next week in their doping row with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

It is the latest move that could end with sprinter Dwain Chambers competing at his home Olympics in London next year.

Two weeks ago, WADA declared the BOA non-compliant over their refusal to lift a lifetime Olympic ban on athletes - including Chambers - found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Chambers, contrary to some reports, remains desperate to run in London. The 33-year-old is currently in the Caribbean where he is preparing to get married to his long-term partner and the mother of his two sons, Leonie.

The reigning World Indoor 60metres champion was one of the athletes uncovered in the BALCO scandal, testing positive for THG and later admitting to the use of a cocktail of drugs.

In 2008, Chambers appealed to the High Court of Justice for the removal of the ban and though it was temporarily lifted, it ultimately failed. Mr Justice Mackay stated at the time that a right to work was not sufficient reason to remove it and Chambers could not race in Beijing.

The Belgrave Harrier has since regularly spoken out against doping and last week gave a talk to an audience of a 1000 at Eton School where he received a standing ovation.

The BOA have now received in writing WADA's formal findings on their bye-law banning Chambers, cyclist David Millar and shot putter Carl Myerscough.

Their chairman, Lord Moynihan, claimed last month they had no choice but to take the case to CAS after the WADA took legal advice from Michael Beloff QC, who concluded the BOA's lifetime ban for drug cheats does not comply with their code.

WADA took the advice in the wake of the US 400m gold medallist LaShawn Merritt's successful challenge of the International Olympic Committee's rule 45 last month, which banned any athlete with a suspension of more than six months from the Games that followed.

The BOA insist they will "vigorously defend any challenge to the selection policy which bans drug cheats from representing Team GB".

But Chambers's manager and barrister, Siza Agha, argues today in Standard Sport that the BOA's appeal process is "inherently flawed".

As the BOA's bye-law on Olympic eligibility stands, athletes can appeal if their drugs "offence was minor or committed without fault or negligence or that there were mitigating circumstances for it" or if "the appellant can show that, on the balance of probabilities, significant mitigating circumstances existed in relation to the doping offence".

However, Agha believes that such a stance is wrong. He writes: "Essentially if an athlete keeps quiet and maintains that a banned substance was in their system because of a horrible mistake, someone spiked a drink, an unknown cream was applied or a banned substance was buried in the small print of packaging then that athlete would have a right of appeal within the bye-law.
Conversely if an athlete does what is universally viewed as the right thing and comes clean there is no appeal."

Myerscough has been largely silent on the matter while earlier this week Millar said he did not want to challenge the ban.

"I just considered that the lifetime ban was in place and it wasn't something I wanted to challenge," he said. "There are certain fights I don't want to fight and that was one of them. I just don't fancy being vilified any more. It's been a tough couple of years."

The BOA will hope to avoid a messy legal wrangle dragging on into 2012 and clouding the build-up the London Games.

Moynihan remains confident that the BOA's stance will not be overturned and that they retain the full support of "90 per cent" of the rest of the Britain's athletes. But Chambers's camp believe this is not the case and that the movement for change and handing the sprinter his redemption is growing.

Despite his advanced years, Chambers remains Britain's premier sprinter. He had a commanding win in 10.09 seconds at the UK Trials in Birmingham before failing to make the final of World Championships in Daegu after false starting in his semi-final.