By Duncan Mackay in London

Colin Moynihan_after_BOA_Board_November_16_2011November 16 - The British Olympic Association is to defend its controversial bylaw which prevents drugs cheats from representing Team GB in the Games to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) asked them to scrap it, chairman Colin Moynihan revealed today.

The BOA's tough bylaw, introduced in 1992, has come under pressure since the CAS decided that an International Olympic Committee (IOC) rule barring athletes who have received drug bans of more than six months from competing in the next Olympics should be scrapped. 

The WADA have now officially written to the BOA asking them to drop their rule that prevents any athlete who has been suspended for a doping-related offence. 

Moynihan claimed that WADA's challenge came "out of the blue" and he insisted that Britain would "vigorously defend any challenge to the selection policy" ahead of London 2012.

"It is a remarkable challenge from WADA in the absence of any challenge form a British athlete," said Moynihan following a meeting of the BOA's Board here who took the unanimous decision to take the row to CAS.

"We are responding to WADA, WADA clearly indicates that the BOA is not compatible with the WADA code, but we believe we have been compatible and that our selection policy remains robust.

''The Board agreed it will vigorously defend the interests of clean athletes by seeking a hearing before the CAS to bring clarity and closure to this issue."

If the BOA lose the case - which is expected to be heard before the Lausanne-based CAS early next year - it would open the door for Dwain Chambers, the world indoor 60 metres champion, and cyclist David Millar, the world time trial silver medallist, to compete at London 2012.

In the correspondence sent to the BOA, WADA attached a legal opinion on the rule from a prominent British lawyer that claimed it was illegal.

Dwain Chambers_outside_High_Court_2008But Moynihan counter-claimed that the legal advice the BOA has received is they have a good chance of winning at CAS because the bylaw is "a selection policy, not a sanction".

The advice came from Adam Lewis, the barrister that represented the BOA when it successfully won a High Court case in 2008 after Chambers (pictured) had challenged the rule on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.

"The BOA hopes that raising this issue in this way will ensure the world of sport has an open and honest debate about the status and future of the anti-doping movement," said Moynihan.

The CAS decision that the IOC Rule 45 was unfair has left the BOA increasingly isolated in the fight against doping. 

The case was brought by the United States Olympic Committee, who said they were seeking clarification over the case of Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt, banned for 21 months last year after testing positive for a banned steroid he claimed he ingested in an over-the-counter substance he used to improve his sexual performance. 

The IOC rule, which bans athletes who have received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next Olympics, was consequently nullified.

But Moynihan is determined that Britain will not back down without a fight and for the second day running turned his guns on the WADA, having yesterday described them as "toothless".

Today he claimed that the organisation, which is funded partly by the British Government, was letting down athletes with its failure to support the BOA position.

"We think it is time for the debate to move forward; the overwhelming majority of athletes compete clean and they should be treated fairly across the world," said Moynihan.  

"We want to see all 204 countries which compete in the Olympic Games to be as robust as the BOA on this issue.

"It is unacceptable that over 60 per cent of the countries in the Olympic Movement have anti-doping policies that are non-compliant with the WADA code. 

"It is unacceptable that WADA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to clean up drugs in sport and yet the processes of detection are letting athletes down and the sanctions for those guilty athletes are getting weaker not stronger. 

"As Steve Redgrave said 'A two-year ban for doping is almost saying it is acceptable.'"

David Millar_World_Championships_Copenhagen_September_2011If the BOA bylaw is scrapped then it would allow Chambers and Millar (pictured) to be selected would help Britain's medal chances at London 2012.

Ironically both athletes have made it clear that they had no plans to challenge the ruling legally. 

Chambers would help the 4x100m relay team challenge the Jamaicans and Americans as they seek to regain the title they last won at Athens in 2004 while Millar's inclusion would almost certainly boost Mark Cavendish's chances of wining the gold medal in the road race.

Millar was an integral part of the squad that helped the Isle of Man rider win the World Championships title in Copenhagen earlier this year.

But Moynihan claimed that the BOA would not turn its back on its principles. 

"I hope the integrity of the BOA's position serves as a catalyst for the rest of the world to follow suit in our resolution and determination to defend our selection policy on behalf of our athletes and uphold the principles of fair play and clean competition upon which it was founded," he said.

Earlier the WADA President, John Fahey, had accused Moynihan of making misinformed and inaccurate comments about WADA's role.

"Accepting that any signatory must be free to criticise, it is disappointing to read the BOA president's comments, some of which are misinformed and inaccurate, and many of which have been addressed by WADA stakeholders in the last code review or by WADA in its present activities," said Fahey.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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