AP Sources: IOC, USOC to seek ruling on doping ban
U.S. and international Olympic officials plan to go to the
highest court in sports over an anti-doping rule that could prevent
American runner LaShawn Merritt from defending his 400-meter title
at the 2012 London Games.
The International Olympic Committee and U.S. Olympic Committee
are nearing agreement on jointly asking the Court of Arbitration
for Sport for a definitive ruling on one of the key elements of the
IOC’s anti-doping program, officials with direct knowledge of the
situation told The Associated Press.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the
discussions are still ongoing.
Both sides want CAS to make a ruling as early as possible to
avoid last-minute confusion and legal wrangling in the months and
weeks before the Olympics start on July 27, 2012. The decision will
be closely watched as a test case that could affect other
At issue is the IOC rule that bars any athlete with a doping
suspension of at least six months from competing in the next
Olympics. The rule was approved by the IOC in 2007 and went into
force just ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games.
Critics claim the rule amounts to a second punishment and
doesn’t withstand legal scrutiny. The IOC says it is not a sanction
but an eligibility issue, and the Olympic body determines who can
participate in its event.
Merritt, winner of the 400 meters in Beijing and world champion
in 2009, received a 21-month suspension last year after testing
positive for a banned substance found in a male enhancement
His penalty was reduced from the usual two-year suspension
because he cooperated with authorities and was found to not have
taken the drug to enhance athletic performance.
Merritt’s ban expires in July, meaning he can return to
international competition, including possibly at the world
championships in Daegu, South Korea. However, Merritt would be
ineligible to compete in London under the IOC rule.
The American Arbitration Association panel that banned Merritt
contested the IOC rule, saying it goes against the World
Anti-Doping Agency code and would essentially extend his ban to
If Merritt were to qualify for London at the U.S. Olympic trials
next year, it would leave the USOC and IOC in a tricky position.
That’s why the parties would like to settle the case soon.
CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said the court had not yet
received any appeal or request for arbitration, but said it would
make sense for the issue to be resolved there.
”Because this rule seems to be so difficult to apply for
certain cases, I think it’s much better to have a ruling from CAS
way in advance of the Olympic Games to avoid a sort of quick
decision three weeks prior to the deadline for the registration of
athletes,” Reeb told the AP.
”So we have time to organize a proper procedure during the year
and to have a final ruling which would be applicable to all
athletes. I think many other athletes could be concerned, not only
the U.S. athlete. It would be a good test case.”
Also affected could be American swimmer Jessica Hardy, who
missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics after testing positive for
clenbuterol. She was found to have unknowingly taken the banned
agent in a contaminated food supplement and her two-year suspension
was reduced to one.
IOC vice president Thomas Bach, who heads the IOC’s juridical
commission, defended the rule at an executive board meeting in
”We made it clear from the very beginning that it is not a
sanction,” Bach said. ”It is a condition of participation. The
IOC is governing the Olympic Games and has the right to put
conditions for participation.”