Sir Craig Reedie said legal advice would be taken before any reintroduction of the Osaka Rule ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will take legal advice before making any move to reintroduce the controversial Osaka Rule.

"We will take legal advice before inserting it into the Code," Sir Craig Reedie, WADA’s newly-re-elected President, told insidethegames.

"We are reluctant to put anything in the Code that runs the risk of being overturned."

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Tony Estanguet publicly raised the issue at Sunday’s WADA Foundation Board meeting in Glasgow, calling for athletes who had served suspensions longer than six months to be excluded from the next edition of the Olympics.

"The IOC would like to propose a new amendment to the Code regarding the eligibility of athletes to compete at the Olympic Games," the Frenchman, a three-time Olympic champion in canoe slalom, said.

"If there are athletes who have served a suspension of more than six months, they should not participate in any capacity in the next edition of the Games."

Any such move would be widely backed both by athletes and, presumably, Sir Craig himself, who was on the board of the British Olympic Association (BOA) in 1992 when it initiated a bylaw which banned any athlete convicted of a serious doping offence from representing Team GB at the Games.

The United States Olympic Committee successfully challenged the Osaka Rule in 2011 on behalf of LaShawn Merritt ©Getty Images
The United States Olympic Committee successfully challenged the Osaka Rule in 2011 on behalf of LaShawn Merritt ©Getty Images

But the juridical history of the matter strongly suggests that WADA is wise to move cautiously.

The so-called Osaka Rule - previously Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter - was originally drafted to allow the IOC to prevent athletes who had received a doping sanction of more than six months from representing their country at the Olympic Games.

It was introduced by the IOC in 2007 during the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championship in Osaka.

It was, however, successfully challenged by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in 2011 on behalf of Beijing 2008 400 metres champion LaShawn Merritt at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The USOC claimed the rule was unfair because it was effectively punishing an athlete twice for the same offence, and CAS agreed.

Following the USOC’s challenge, WADA successfully overturned the BOA’s bylaw.

Notwithstanding the legal complexities, raising the issue once again in a public forum while anti-doping issues are so much in the public eye appears a clever PR move by the IOC, which is still under fire for its role in permitting so many Russian athletes to compete at this year’s Rio Olympics, after WADA advocated a blanket ban.

This vexed issue will return to the top of the news agenda next month, with Richard McLaren's WADA-commissioned final report into doping in Russia to be released in London on December 9.