British Olympic Association’s (BOA) bylaw excluding those found guilty of doping offences from eligibility for selection to Team GB (the British Olympic Team) has been held to be illegal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. The Court further demanded that this bylaw be repealed by the BOA within May or further sanctions will be imposed. The decision’s effect is to allow athletes found guilty of doping to be included in Team GB if they reach the qualifying standard imposed by their sport’s governing body.

This is a controversial decision especially for clean athletes who feel that their lives are devoted to obtaining a medal which might be or has been taken from them by a drug cheat.

The Court however has jurisdiction over most sporting bodies who have agreed to use it as the final forum for disputes, including the Olympics. In these instances its powers are greater than any national courts and has bound the International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself in a similar decision to change its rules. It is unappealable.

It has decided that the only drug related penalty that may be imposed by any nation’s or sport’s governing body is that imposed by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the world’s appointed anti-doping authority. Since the level of sanction set by WADA requires unanimity across all nations, the penalty is a mild one of 2 years, which means that most convicted athletes will be able to compete in the very next Olympic Games.

The effect is to impose not a minimum punishment but a maximum, a situation not lost on rower Andrew Triggs Hodge MBE, Olympic Gold Medallist and stroke of the Men’s Four recently selected for Team GB and Pitmans SK Sport and Entertainment client:

“There needs to be a much bigger debate on what it means, on athletes who return from 2-year bans.  Doping has almost become acceptable.”

Rowing champion calls for prevention not just cure in the fight against doping – The Telegraph 9 May 2012

The Chairman of the BOA, Lord Colin Moynihan, has vowed to fight on in the anti-doping cause by seeking change at international level, first by lobbying WADA. While this will not affect London 2012, this cause continues.