London’s High Court Rules Against Would-be Olympian

Aug 15, 2008

Justice Sir Colin Mackay of London’s highest court declined to grant an injunction last month that would have temporarily suspended a British Olympic Association (BOA) bylaw that bans convicted doping offenders from future Olympic participation.
The ruling meant that British sprinter Dwain Chambers was not allowed to compete at the Beijing Games.
Interestingly, the judge criticized the BOA bylaw, suggesting that “Many people both inside and outside sport would see this bylaw as unlawful. (But) in my judgment it would take a much better case than the claimant has presented to persuade me to overturn the status quo at this stage and compel his selection for the games.”
As a factor in his decision, Mackay highlighted the new IOC rule, which came into effect July 1, banning athletes from the following Olympics upon receiving a drug suspension of at least six months.
Another factor he considered was that Chambers had little chance, if any, of winning a medal in Beijing. It would be unfair, according to Mackey, to deny an opportunity for another sprinter, who had never taken drugs, to go to the Olympics. “His 10-second time achieved last weekend is confronted by the fact that there will be nine other athletes in Beijing who have run a faster time this year,” concluded Mackay. (T)he harmony and management of the British team would have been upset.”
The BOA, through attorney David Pannick, had argued that Chambers “cannot show that sportsmen and women are significantly restrained in their trade by the bylaw, which only concerns eligibility for an amateur event, which takes place once every four years, and for which there is no prize money.
“If the court were to make an order requiring the claimant to be selected, that would deprive another athlete of his place in the team, even though the legality of the rule may be upheld at a full trial.”
BOA chairman Lord Colin Moynihan added in a statement:
“I have to say it is a matter of regret that Dwain Chambers – an athlete with such undoubted talent, a winner of the European Youth Olympic Festival 100m as a young man – should by his own actions have put himself out of the running to shine on the Olympic stage in Beijing.
“However, on behalf of the athletes, the BOA will continue to send a powerful and important message that nobody found guilty of serious drug cheating offences should have the honour of wearing a Team GB vest at the Olympic Games.”
Nevertheless, the BOA has asked its Anti-Doping Commission to undertake a review of the bylaw in conjunction with the independent British Athletes Commission.
“Today has strengthened our resolve that it’s the right approach, but we also want to make sure we are reflecting the athletes’ wishes,” Moynihan said. “I don’t believe today will change that bylaw, but we need to keep it under review.”


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