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How WADA Can Bar GBR At London 2012

Nov 21, 2011  - Craig Lord

War of Words in War On Doping Escalates as WADA Declares Host Nation Non-Compliant with Code; Under Olympic Charter, The BOA Would Be Barred, Technically, From London 2012

Dick Pound, former Commonwealth swimming champion and a leading light at the IOC and WADA, has joined the chorus of those who don't appear to appreciate the upset the world-anti-doping authority has caused by meddling with the rights of nations to set their own criteria for eligibility to the Olympic Games.

WADA, CAS and USOC dropped a bomb on efforts to rid international sport of cheats when all agreed with the notion that WADA rules and arrangements with the IOC could not prevent doping offenders handed down a six-month plus penalty from competing at the Olympic Games after they had served their suspension.

Read more on that in this this SwimNews article, in which we list of aquatic athletes the ruling allowed back into the Olympic arena should they wish to have the second chance after they denied others of their rightful place on teams and podiums. Also, find out what Olympic athletes want here and read this to catch up on what the head of the 2012 host-nation Olympic Committee, Colin Moynihan, had to say, and what happened next.

In the latest escalation of the row, WADA declared the British Olympic Association (BOA) "non-compliant" with the WADA Code. That decision means that the Olympic Charter, the BOA is technically unable to compete at London 2012. Would it come to that? Perhaps if hell freezes over.

The BOA intends to defend a bylaw under which it reserves the right to set the criteria for Olympic selection for those wishing to wear British colours. One of the lines that has the strongest backing of the greatest number of athletes in Britain is clear: if you serve a doping suspension of more than six months, there is no way back for you. 

WADA and a team of lawyers, from CAS to the representatives of the banned, and USOC argue that mitigating circumstances are overlooked by a blanket ban. When WADA was formed, strict liability went out of the window. If you can persuade a jury that you did not cheat deliberately, that you were a victim of circumstance or ignorance, perhaps both, they you are free to go,  your case a precedent not only for others in the same boat but those who simply claim to be in the same boat but are cheats using loopholes and playing the system.

It is that aspect of the argument that WADA, CAS and USOC have simply not addressed. While there is talk of changing the Code at some stage, that would not come into force in time to prevent London 2012 going down as the Games at which - regardless of any legal arguments that may stack up in a court of law - WADA and CAS, against the wishes of the IOC and others such as FINA, were seen as the gamekeepers who let the fox back into the coop.

Former WADA President Pound now states that Lord Moynihan's comments were "both very unfortunate and, frankly, quite offensive … I think he should at least have verified the factual basis on which he was making allegations against WADA."

It is hard to see the allegation in what Lord Moynihan is standing for: the right of a nation to impose its own selection criteria for the Games - and specifically for the Games, including doping deterrence that goes beyond a WADA Code that is deemed to be too weak. 

In the wake of the China crisis of the 1990s, when more than 40 swimmers tested positive, mostly for steroids in the closest model of cheating to the systematic abuse of the GDR since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, FINA imposed four-year bans and lifetime bans on repeat offenders. Those penalties were subsequently parred back in tune with a softer WADA Code.

That perceived - to many actual - weakness in the war on doping is about to be put to the test. "We look forward to receiving the formal findings from WADA setting out how they have determined the BOA's selection policy is non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code," the BOA said.

"On behalf of the overwhelming majority of British athletes we will vigorously defend any challenge to the selection policy which bans drug cheats from representing Team GB and we will publish the process we intend to follow in the near future."

The British case will be important for something like 50 nations around the world that also keep doping cheats on the comeback trail away from Olympic competition and fall shy of the strict letter of the WADA Code. As head of WADA John Fahey put it: "There are many who are non-compliant. My recollection is around 150 countries are compliant."

Whatever CAS decides, the BOA is almost sure to win the public relations war, with WADA left to explain why an "anti-doping" body is fighting so hard to ban one of the best weapons in the war on doping, one that has been in place since State Plan 14:25 and the sporting crime of the 20th century (one with a very real legacy of serious health problems and disability in children born to former GDR athletes) were demolished with the reunification of Germany.