Merritt decision could open Olympics door for Chambers and Millar

BRITISH athletes banned from competing at the Olympic Games for life, for failing a drugs test, may yet be given the green-light to represent the nation at next year’s event in London.

US sprinter LaShawn Merritt was today given the go-ahead to compete in London after the Court of Arbitration for Sport declared an International Olympic Committee (IOC) ban on him taking part in the Games “invalid and unenforceable”.

The IOC had ruled any athlete banned for six months or more for drugs must miss the next Games, while the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) bans any athlete from the Olympic Games, having found guilty of taking drugs, for life.

The CAS decision could give hope to cyclist David Millar and sprinter Dwain Chambers, who have both served bans for drugs in the past, to represent Great Britain next year.

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson earlier this week insisted the BOA’s lifetime ban can be maintained as did Ipswich Evening Star columnist and chair of the British Athletes Commission, Karen Pickering

“I absolutely support the BOA’s stand on anti-doping. Athletes have to abide by the by-law which states there is a lifetime ban for drugs cheats,” said Robertson.

“There is also the option to appeal under BOA’s system, while there is not under the IOC’s so it is a different case.

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“I don’t think this is the end of the road for the BOA by-law by any means.”

Pickering added: “No one knows how long the positive benefits of a banned substance can last. We talk a lot about muscle memory and if that substance made an athlete lift more, jump higher or run faster, who is to say that the effect is not going to last when they return?

“The drug cheats argue that by being denied the chance to compete they lose the opportunity to make a living but they did not give a second thought to the athletes they cheated out of medals, sponsorship, possible funding and everything that comes with being in an Olympic final or winning an Olympic medal.”

Merritt was given a 21-month ban after he failed a drugs test for taking a banned substance.

Under the IOC’s rule 45, he would have been prevented from defending his Olympic title at London 2012.

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