By Duncan Mackay in Lausanne
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

LaShawn_Merritt_Beijing_August_2008January 12 - LaShawn Merritt will not be able to defend his Olympic 400 metres title at London next year after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today refused to back down from its new tough anti-doping stance.

The IOC's ruling Executive Board and Athletes' Commission threw their weight behind the rule, which bars any athlete with a doping suspension of at least six months from competing in the next Olympics.

Merritt, winner of the 400m at the Beijing Olympics, received a 21-month suspension last year after testing positive for a banned substance found in a male enhancement product.

The American's ban expires in July, meaning he can return to international competition, including the World Championships in Daegu in August, where he is also the defending champion.

But Merritt is ineligible to compete in London a year later because of the controversial IOC rule.

"The athletes made it very clear they support the rule," IOC vice-president Thomas Bach told Reuters.

"The rule applies.

"It shows the full resolve of the IOC in the fight against doping and demonstrates that Olympic athletes serve as role models worldwide."

The rule was approved at an IOC meeting in Osak in 2007 and went into force just ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The American Arbitration Panel who banned Merritt have cast doubt over the rule because they claim that it amounts to a second punishment which is against the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which the IOC is a signatory to.

But Bach, a German lawyer who heads the IOC's Juridical Commission, claims this is not the case.

"We made it clear from the very beginning that it is not a sanction," he said.

"It is a condition of participation.

"The IOC is governing the Olympic Games and has the right to put conditions for participation."

Frankie_Fredericks_IOC_EB_June_2009Merritt is lucky to be allowed to compete at all again in the Olympics because if the world adopted the British Olympic Association's draconian lifetime ban for drugs cheats then he would be barred from ever, warned Frankie Fredericks (pictured), chairman of the IOC Athletes' Commission.

"I am in favour of zero tolerance to doping," Fredericks told insidethegames.

"If the rules are even tougher I think I will support them.

"Any rules I'm in favour of, because I'm in favour of nobody trying to take a shortcut by taking away the glory and effort in life of somebody else that could have won a gold medal."

Last month Andy Parkinson claimed, in an exclusive blog published on insidethegames, that he believed the BOA ban discouraged convicted drugs takers from sharing information with the authorities because there was no incentive.

But Fredericks admitted that he would like to see the rule applied worldwide.

"If everyone adopted it then it would make life easier and give more creditability to being an Olympic champion," said Fredericks, winner of a four Olympic silver medals, including at the 1992 Barcelona Games when he was beaten in the 100 metres by Britain's Linford Christie, who later in his career tested positive for anabolic steroids.

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