By Duncan Mackay

Dwain Chambers_with_GB_flagDecember 13 - The British Olympic Association (BOA) announced today that it has filed a formal appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), challenging a decision last month by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that declared its controversial anti-doping bylaw non-compliant, which could leave the door open for convicted drugs cheats like Dwain Chambers to represent Team GB at London 2012. 

The BOA and WADA have agreed that CAS is the appropriate forum for resolution of this matter, and both parties are seeking to arrange matters so that a decision can be made by CAS before the end of April 2012.

The BOA claimed that they were fulfilling a commitment to the "overwhelming majority of British Olympic athletes, present and past, who continue to express their unwavering support for the selection policy and have encouraged the BOA to vigorously defend it".

Sebastian Coe, the two-time Olympic 1500 metres champion who is now the chairman of London 2012, and rower Sir Steve Redgrave, the five-time Olympic gold medallist, have all publicly backed the bylaw since the row started with WADA after they ruled that it left Britain non-complaint with the World Anti-Doping Code because it punished athletes twice for the same offence.

"The BOA selection policy is a direct expression of the commitment British athletes have made to uphold the values of fair play, integrity and clean competition – values that are at the heart of Olympic sport," said Colin Moynihan, the BOA chairman.

The bylaw, introduced in 1992, prevents any athlete who has tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs from representing Britain in the Olympics.  

"It is a policy that reflects the culture and character of Team GB," said Moynihan.

"The BOA and British Olympic athletes do not consider that those who have deliberately cheated should represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games.

"We are appreciative of the expressions of support and encouragement we have received during the past few weeks, not the least of which have come from groups such as the BOA Athletes' Commission, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission and the European Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission, whose members have added their voices to this important issue.

"We appreciate the opportunity to appear before CAS and explain why our selection policy is entirely consistent with the Olympic Charter, and why it is essential for National Olympic Committees to have the autonomy and independence to determine their own selection policies."

David PannickThe BOA will be represented in its appeal by external legal advisors Lord David Pannick QC (pictured) of Blackstone Chambers, who has been described as the "greatest barrister in the country" and who represented the BOA when they successfully resisted a claim in the High Court the claim by Chambers to allow him to compete at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

He will be aided by Adam Lewis QC, who is also from Blackstone Chambers.

Lewis last week represented the Football Association when they successfully appeared before UEFA to get a reduction a three-match ban faced by Wayne Rooney for Euro 2012 to two.

They will be supported by Tom Cassels of Baker & McKenzie, who also worked on ensuring Chambers was unable to compete in Beijing.

The centrepiece of the BOA's case will be that they will argue at CAS that the bylaw "is not a sanction for a doping offence" but "a policy that addresses who is, and is not, eligible for selection to Team GB – and makes clear that any athlete who deliberately cheats by using prohibited substances is not eligible. 

"The policy addresses what form Team GB should take, and does not seek to punish any individual athlete."

The BOA will also claim that as the law was introduced in 1992, which pre-dates the WADA Code, and that if it is lifted the "presence of athletes who deliberately cheat within Team GB would damage team morale, atmosphere and cohesiveness" and a that "an athlete who deliberately cheats should not take the place in Team GB of a clean athlete, who has trained and competed in full adherence to the rules and without seeking an unfair advantage through the use of prohibited substances".

The BOA will also claim that the IOC "has recently reaffirmed, in writing to the BOA, that it is entirely within the remit of every National Olympic Committee to determine the eligibility standards for its Olympic team".

Among those that support the BOA stance is Thomas Bach, the vice-president of the IOC.

"You cannot sanction an NOC which within its own authority tries to do the best in the fight against doping and is for all the rest fulfilling all the WADA requirements," said Bach, a qualified lawyer who is the head of the IOC's Jurdicial Commission.

"I support initiatives of NOCs in their country where they deem they are legally feasible.

"You have to give the NOCs the freedom to at least try to do what they can do.

"If they are confident they can push it legally through, this is fine for me."

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