Exclusive: We are "very supportive of tougher penalties" on drugs cheats claims USOC chief

Thursday, 13 October 2011
By Tom Degun in Guadalajara

Scott Blackmun_at_Pan_American_Games_October_12_2011October 13 - United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Scott Blackmun has claimed the only reason they approached the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling on drug cheats was because they needed some clarity on the laws.

Following a joint request for arbitration filed by the IOC and the USOC, the CAS declared last week that the IOC's rule 45 or "Osaka Rule" banning any athlete serving a suspension of six months or more for doping violations from the subsequent Olympic Games was "invalid and unenforceable".

CAS concluded that the penalty went beyond World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions of a maximum two-year ban and therefore was effectively a double punishment meaning that convicted drug cheats like American LeShawn Merritt will be able to compete at the Olympics.

The 25-year-old Merritt will be looking to defend his 400 metre title at London 2012 but Blackmun said the decision was never about Merritt or the IOC but simply a question of how the rules should be applied.

"This issue was never an attack on the IOC; it was actually the complete opposite," Blackmun told insidethegames here where he is part of the USOC delegation for the 2011 Pan American Games.

"We had talked with the IOC for a long time about the issue and told them that we were between a rock and a hard place regarding the lack of clarity over the ruling.

"We said that we needed some help because we had different rulings that we had to abide by.

"We had one ruling that said we had to let LeShawn Merritt compete in the Olympic trials and then a separate IOC ruling that said we are not allowed to let LeShawn Merritt compete in the Olympic Games.

"Fortunately, the IOC recognised our problem and that there were others likely to have the same problem and so they agreed that it was in the best interests of the Olympic Movement to go to CAS get the issue clarified.

"So it was never an attack from the IOC from us; it was just the way that this sanction was being presented was causing real problems for us.

"We are actually very supportive of tougher stances and tougher penalties on doping violations but we were in a position where we were unable to comply with all the relevant authorities.

"This was merely an effort on our part to get some guidance.

"We now understand that the IOC will approach WADA to get some changes to their rules to create stiffer doping penalties and we will be fully supportive of the IOC's efforts on that front."

Despite the CAS ruling, British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Colin Moynihan has pledged that he will fight to keep his organisations lifetime Olympic ban in place meaning that top British athletes such as sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar will be unable to compete at London 2012.

Moynihan has already contacted the IOC on the issue to confirm they will support his viewpoint, which Executive Board member Denis Oswald has already confirmed they would.

Blackmun said that he is aware of the BOA's stance but only has a limited knowledge of the precise details involved.

"I don't really know enough about the exact implications of the BOA ruling or how it is specifically applied to have a position either pro or con on it so it is something I can't really comment on," he said.

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