WADA seeks resolution of dispute over British bans
The World Anti-Doping Agency wants a quick resolution of the dispute over Britain's lifetime Olympic bans for drug offenders.
WADA ruled Sunday that the British Olympic Association's rule violates the global anti-doping code, an embarrassment for the nation that will host next year's London Games.
Britain is the only country that enforces life bans on drug cheats, and the BOA was the only national Olympic committee found in noncompliance with the code by WADA's foundation board in Montreal.
WADA director general David Howman said Monday it's now up to the BOA to either discard the rule or appeal the noncompliance finding to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
''They could change their rule today and it wouldn't need to go any further,'' Howman said in a conference call with reporters.
If Britain does take the case to court, WADA is confident the rule would be overturned in line with a previous decision involving the International Olympic Committee's own tough doping provision.
''I'm sure that could be dealt with relatively quickly,'' Howman said. ''It's not a very big question and it has already been discussed and resolved by previous CAS panels. I think it's pretty simple.''
The BOA's bylaw has been under scrutiny since CAS nullified the IOC's rule that would have banned any athletes who received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next games.
The court ruled that the IOC provision amounted to a second sanction and did not conform with the WADA code. The ruling cleared American 400-meter runner LaShawn Merritt, who completed a 21-month doping ban in July, to defend his Olympic title in London next year.
Howman called the BOA's noncompliance a ''technical issue'' that could be resolved if the committee chooses to appeal.
''I have no difficulty with that,'' he said. ''That's their right, so let's just hope that can be done quickly and any cloud that might be hanging around today dissipates.''
Compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code is mandatory under IOC rules. The ultimate sanction for failing to comply is exclusion from the Olympics.
But the IOC noted that Britain's national anti-doping agency, UK Anti-Doping, is ''fully compliant'' with the code and said there was no risk to athletes from the 2012 host nation.
''The BOA has only been deemed noncompliant on a technicality rather than any unwillingness of the BOA to fight doping,'' IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said in a statement to The Associated Press. ''We are confident that the BOA and UKAD will do their utmost to ensure clean British athletes will compete in London and this ruling will have absolutely no effect on British athletes competing in London.''
The BOA's lifetime bylaw has been in place since 1992.
Among British athletes currently covered by the ban are sprinter Dwain Chambers, who served a two-year ban in the BALCO scandal, and cyclist David Millar, who was suspended for two years after testing positive for EPO.
The BOA made clear it would fight to retain its rule, which it contends is a matter of eligibility and not a sanction.
''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 BOA said in a statement Sunday night.
The BOA and WADA traded sharp exchanges last week ahead of the noncompliance ruling. BOA chairman Colin Moynihan accused the doping agency of failing to catch the world's biggest drug cheats and of dragging the doping fight into a ''dark age.''
WADA officials responded that the BOA was a signatory of the code and had been part of the decision-making process.
Howman said he expects some athletes and officials will push for inclusion of lifetime bans during the next revision of the WADA code, but urged caution.
''As soon as you introduce a lifetime ban you will be before the court of human rights and you'll be told it's not an appropriate sanction and therefore can't be enforced,'' he said. ''We just have to make sure that whatever is said is balanced by a reality check.''