By Tom Degun

LaShawn Merritt_06-10-11October 6 - United States athlete LaShawn Merritt will be able to defend his Olympic 400-metre title at London 2012 Games after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ban on convicted drug cheats "invalid and unenforceable".

The IOC Rule 45 or "Osaka Rule" - which was created in June 2008 - had barred any athlete who has received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next Olympic Games.

But the 25-year-old sprinter, who won silver in the 400m at the World Championships in Daegu earlier this year and gold in the USA 4x400m relay, believed that the penalty went beyond World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions of a maximum two-year ban and was effectively a double punishment.

Merritt and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) took their case to CAS who have now overturned the IOC ban.

A statement on the decision from CAS said: "Following the joint request for arbitration filed by the United States Olympic Committee [USOC] and the International Olympic Committee [IOC] with respect to the validity of the 'Regulations Regarding Participation in the Olympic Games - Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter' [also known as the Osaka Rule], the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] has issued the following decision:

"The IOC Executive Board's June 27, 2008 decision prohibiting athletes who have been suspended for more than six months for an anti-doping rule violation from participating in the next Olympic Games following the expiration of their suspension is invalid and unenforceable."

The outcome is set to have major repercussions in the UK as it could force the British Olympic Association (BOA) to re-think their regulations as they currently impose a lifetime Olympic ban on those with doping convictions.

dwain chambers_06-10-11
If their bylaw was dropped, it could open the way for the likes of 100m sprinter Dwain Chambers (pictured) and cyclist David Millar to compete at future Olympic Games.

Chambers has tried once before to overturn his Olympic ban after serving a two-year suspension following his positive test for a cocktail of banned drugs in 2003 but failed in his attempt.

But Merritt has been successful after he was given a two-year suspension, later reduced to 21 months, for failing three tests for a banned steroid in early 2010.

Under IOC rule 45, any athlete given a ban longer than six months is prohibited from competing at the next Games and the IOC introduced its own "increased sanction" of an automatic ban from the next Games prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The WADA Code, which came into force in 2004, harmonised rules around the globe and brought in a maximum ban of two years for athletes who test positive for performance enhancing drugs and there are growing calls that the BOA should comply with this.

They are set to hold a press conference this afternoon with BOA chairman Colin Moynihan and BOA Athletes' Commission chair Sarah Winckless set to declare their views on the matter.

The IOC has already released a statement expressing their disappointment but that they will fully abide by the CAS ruling.

"The IOC fully respects the Court of Arbitration for Sport and will of course abide by its judgment," said the statement

"We are naturally disappointed.

"The rule was in our view an efficient means to advance the fight against doping, and we were somewhat surprised by the judgment.

"When the moment comes for the revision of the World Anti-Doping Code we will ensure that tougher sanctions, including such a rule, will be seriously considered."

Andy Parkinson_06-10-11
UK Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson (pictured) has also spoken out on the matter and declared his full support for the CAS ruling, which is no surprise given that his organisation have continually called for the BOA to remove the lifetime ban in Britain so that athletes are given an incentive to share information on doping.

"UK Anti-Doing's position is well known on such matters," said Parkinson.

"We believe it is appropriate that the decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport strongly supports the authority of the World Anti-Doping Code, the internationally agreed set of rules.

"The global fight against doping in sport is a complex task and this ruling provides clarity for the sporting movement in the lead up to 2012."

Parkinson has long been at odds with the BOA over their lifetime ban stance as he says it impedes the work of his organisation and he has found strong support from chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Travis Tygart who earlier this week said that the BOA should stick to the sanctions outlined by WADA.

"Let's not go outside [the WADA] process, like the BOA has, and have a rule that supersedes the rules we've all signed up to as the final word on what the sanctions should be," Tygart said.

"If we want lifetime bans - and that could be the right thing to do to protect clean athletes - let's do it via WADA so that it applies to every country."

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