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BOA To Defend Drug Zero-Tolerance At CAS

Nov 17, 2011  - Craig Lord

The Anti-Doping Debate

The British Olympic Association is to defy WADA and defend a bylaw that prevents drug cheats from representing Britain at the Games. The host 2012 Olympic Committee, backed by support from the British Government, will take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, according to chairman of the BOA Colin Moynihan.

The no-tolerance bylaw in place to protect the victims of drug cheats, whose place on teams, in finals, on podiums is denied by abusers without any chance of redemption, was introduced in 1992. CAS recently ruled that the IOC could not prevent athletes who had served a ban of longer than six months from returning to the Olympic arena under the current WADA Code and agreements with the anti-doping agency.

WADA has asked the BOA to scrap its rule. The BOA has said "no", both on the basis that it wishes to stand firm against giving cheats a chance in the ultimate arena of sport and because it says it has the right to select a Britain team under specific, autonomous selection policies. WADA's next move: CAS.

The WADA challenge was revealed hot on the heels of this speech by Lord Moynihan.

"It is a remarkable challenge from WADA in the absence of any challenge form a British athlete," Moynihan told reporters after a meeting of the BOA's Board at which a unanimous vote confirmed that Britain would defend its position at CAS.

"We are responding to WADA, WADA clearly indicates that the BOA is not compatible with the WADA code, but we believe we have been compatible and that our selection policy remains robust. The Board agreed it will vigorously defend the interests of clean athletes by seeking a hearing before the CAS to bring clarity and closure to this issue," said the chairman.

If the BOA should lose its case, due to be heard early next year, the gate would be open to another flood of drug cheats who say they have a right to redemption, even those they beat, those they denied, will never have a chance to experience what might have been in their own sports careers. In aquatic sports, In aquatic sports, this SwimNews article lists those who can now return to Olympic competition as a result of what many see as a warped WADA/USOC/CAS view of how best to fight doping in sport.

In Britain, the likes of track sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar would be eligible to seek selection for a home Games next year if the BOA loses its case. WADA, which is supposed to train its weapons on drug cheats, has chosen to turn the opinion of a leading British lawyer that the BOA's stance might be 'illegal' under current arrangements, as a weapon in an action that could contribute to London 2012 going down in history as the Games at which the gamekeeper let the fox back into the coop.

"The BOA hopes that raising this issue in this way will ensure the world of sport has an open and honest debate about the status and future of the anti-doping movement," said Moynihan.

The bomb was dropped because the United States Olympic Committee sought clarification over the case of Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt, banned for 21 months in 2010 after testing positive for a banned steroid he claimed to have ingested in an over-the-counter product that he took to enhance his sexual performance. 

Strict liability was removed from anti-doping regimes when WADA was born, one of the key weapons in the fight against cheats removed in the interests of protecting those who had inadvertently taken a banned product but did not fit into the same category as the deliberate malice-aforethought cheat. In effect, what was achieved was to place the accidental and the deliberate in the same boat, just in a different lane, the hardcore cheat more able to find a loophole and an escape route in rules designed to provide a second chance for the errant.

Moynihan told reporters: "It is unacceptable that over 60 per cent of the countries in the Olympic Movement have anti-doping policies that are non-compliant with the WADA code. It is unacceptable that WADA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to clean up drugs in sport and yet the processes of detection are letting athletes down and the sanctions for those guilty athletes are getting weaker not stronger. As Steve Redgrave said 'A two-year ban for doping is almost saying it is acceptable'."

FINA had a four-year ban in place on the eve of WADA's birth but was forced to ease its stance to fall in line with a WADA Code many felt was too weak. 

Moynihan added: "I hope the integrity of the BOA's position serves as a catalyst for the rest of the world to follow suit in our resolution and determination to defend our selection policy on behalf of our athletes and uphold the principles of fair play and clean competition upon which it was founded."

WADA President John Fahey, meanwhile, had accused Moynihan of making misinformed. "Accepting that any signatory must be free to criticise, it is disappointing to read the BOA president's comments, some of which are misinformed and inaccurate, and many of which have been addressed by WADA stakeholders in the last code review or by WADA in its present activities," he said. 

What he does not yet answer is this: can WADA, can CAS, can USOC and others seriously be happy with a situation in which the drug cheat gets to compete at the Olympic Games after redemption but none of those who were victims of those acts of deception ever get back what might - and in some case most surely should - have been their moment in the sun delivered back to them? What he does not yet talk to is this: can all those parties be happy with a rule that simply sends the wrong message and feeds the view so often touted by cheats, that it is ok to deceive because everyone is doing the same thing at elite level - and if you get caught, don't worry, you can say sorry, come back and feel no shame when next you race for international honours. The world of sport has plenty of examples of that - swimming included.