Olympic 400m champion Lashawn Merritt has eventually won, as very much anticipated, the CAS (Court of Arbitration of Sport) ruling against his Olympic ban imposed by IOC on the relatively recently introduced rule 45 (2008), earning the right to defend his title at the Olympic stadium in London next summer provided he makes the US team. A decision that has caused a stir and already set up shockwaves around the globe, very likely to sweep particularly Britain in the wake.


Lashawn Merritt destroys a field involving Jeremy Warriner to the Olympic title in Beijing

The American failed three tests in late 2009 that he attributed to a male-enhancement product to incur a 21-month sanction, yet mounted a remarkable return to form within short time to show up in defence of his global title in Daegu, which he eventually conceded to Grenada’s wonderboy Kirani James down the home straight. But that latest legislation in place by IOC threatened to cancel out a bid for a second Olympic title on the trot before it even got underway.

The rule had that every athlete that has served over six months on doping offences be banned from competing at the following Olympia, which turned its very undoing and fall in the end. For the ruling itself shaped the ground and the platform where Merritt build up his successful case since it stretched his ban to effectively over two and a half years, falling contrary to the WADA policy that rules a maximum of two years for a first time offence. But not anymore, hence the use of ‘had’ rather than ‘has’.

CAS did not only end Merritt’s Olympic ban and render him eligible to compete in London but also knocked rule 45 itself off force as “invalid and unenforceable” since it amounted to a second sanction and did not comply with WADA’s code, a verdict fully accepted and without a question by IOC. IAAF now estimate that the decision will impact around 50 athletes in track and field facing issues of eligibility. Incidentally, UKADA backed USOC and by induction Merritt in his cause among other agencies.

While the American has shrugged that burden off his shoulders and can fully focus now on his preparations for the new season, the shockwave of CAS verdict that is heading fast and gathering force towards the British shores looks menacing and bound to shake BOA’s equivalent ‘by-law’ hard in the wake, likely to open the way to Dwain Chambers and road cyclist David Millar for London as well. The built-in rule set in 1992 rules out every Briton that has committed a serious drug offence from the Olympic Games for life and has come under serious pressure from many quarters to make way in recent months, even from within the quarters of UKADA who urged athletes concerned to challenge it legally.


Chambers will be hoping to return to Olympic territory for the first time after 12 years, fourth in Sydney 2000

The words of Travis Tyrant, chief executive of USADA, are still fresh and echoed around calling on BOA to abandon their ‘by-law’ last Monday as it stands contrary to globally agreed procedures on tackling doping issues and goes far beyond the sanctions demanded by WADA.

As a matter of fact, the CAS ruling had hardly come out than Chambers, who served a two-year band in 2003 to 2005 in connection with the BALCO scandal, was reported straight away through his agent to be considering a renewed appeal against his lifetime suspension. Sazia Agha said, “”Dwain and I just want the opportunity to read, digest and review the reasoning behind.” The athlete lodged an original case before Beijing in 2008 which failed only on the grounds that it was made too late. Those latest developments and turns of events must have shaped a substantial boost to his hopes of pulling on a British vest in the arena of the new Olympic stadium at Stratford.


Millar, for his part, has declined to be drawn on anything yet as to what he is going to do, though he welcomed the verdict as “a good thing” on Twitter, but it should be a matter of time before the battle is taken on British soil for good. Colin Moynihan may have been quick to pledge that BOA will fight and are feeling confident of the verdict of a potential legal struggle but the truth is that no matter what he may claim the ‘by-law’ is very much like a castle built in the sand waiting for the first wave to sweep it away – and that wave is coming in thick and fast.


Millar considers appeal against BOA ‘by-law’

Highly-rated road cyclist David Millar is considering an appeal against BOA’s by-law following Lashawn Merritt‘s winning case at the CAS over an equivalent ban by IOC,  taken out of force as a consequence in the immediate wake. That said, he declined to answer whether he is planning to launch a challenge saying that his priority is to respect and facilitate the efforts of the British cycling team and David Brailsford.

At the same time, he went on to stress that he feels very confident he could overturn his Olympic ban if he appealed so he is going to “let the gods decide”. Brailsford, incidentally, said in separate statements that he would like British riders to be treated on equal and consistent terms with their overseas rivals on the sole legislation in place by the global anti-doping authority (WADA) and nothing beyond, hinting that he would accept Millar back on the team if available.

“I’d love to see consistency on a global scale, we have a global anti-doping body in Wada (World Anti-Doping Authority) and we should have a global application of the rules. It shouldn’t be your nationality that decides if you get banned or not, so if you are French you can ride; if you are British you cannot,” said Brailsford.

Dwain Chambers, meanwhile, is understood to be in Jamaica following the death of his father, thus not available at the moment.



WADA asks BOA to review ‘by-law’

BOA are feeling the noose tightening around their necks as WADA have asked them to review their ‘by-law’, with director-general David Howman claiming that the ruling has not been approved by his body.

Howman commented, “”We have not approved their selection policy by-law. The BOA are trying to have a bob both ways. At all times they have said the bye-law is not an anti-doping rule but a selection policy. Now they are saying it’s an anti-doping rule. Our mandate is to report on anti-doping rules. We therefore said we would back their anti-doping rules.

But we have always been clear – if it is an extra sanction then it would not be compliant. Ultimately it’s not up to us to make a decision like this. It’s a matter for a court and for them to think about. What we have done as a result of the Cas decision is to write to them. They are trying to take a strong approach and I welcome that. But it has to be fair and consistent.”



Wiggins rides to Millar’s support

Cycling heavyweight Bradley Wiggins, who will be mixing it both on the track and the road pursuing glory in London next summer, has riden to the support of David Millar over a potential appeal to regain Olympic eligibility.  The double Olympic Individual Pursuit champion admitted that he would like to have the Scot riding alongside him in the Olympics and feels he should be alright to compete, having urged him to appeal against his BOA-imposed ban. In his view, Millar “made his mistakes but he is now someone who believes passionately in the clean sport and has done a lot of work educating in that area since he came back to cycling.”

Incidentally, Jonathan Walters, a leading sports lawyer, reckons that last year’s world time-trial silver medalist stands a good chance of overturning his lifetime barring from the Olympics. “”In light of this decision (Merritt’s clearance by CAS), the BOA’s rule stands on very shaky ground,” he said.