The CAS, final arbiter on matters sporting, ruled in favour of the World Anti-Doping Agency, insisting that Britain's policy of excluding convicted drug cheats from Olympic selection is incompatible with the WADA code. Thus, English sprinter Dwain Chambers and Scottish cyclist David Millar are among a raft of drug cheats now eligible for Team GB.
Indeed, Chambers will join Britain's sprint relay squad preparing for 2012 in the next couple of weeks, UK Athletics confirmed yesterday. Within minutes, UK Sport warned that, "They must find a way to include him that demonstrates to us that the athlete would not benefit from UK Sport funding and funded benefits."
The Swiss court's ruling is a crushing disappointment to the BOA. They commanded the moral high ground by excluding cheats. The likes of world and Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt – convicted for a banned substance in a penis enhancement cream – had already been declared eligible for the US without missing an Olympic Games.
Another embarrassing and costly chapter on doping's chamber of horrors may remain to be written. With CAS having ruled the BOA stance illegal, denial of resources to Chambers by UKS since he served his suspension may also be considered illegal.
Chambers failed with a High Court injunction against the BOA, on grounds of restraint of trade, before the Beijing Olympics. However, in light of the CAS decision, based on court precedent in Europe, his legal advisers may now feel there are grounds for pursuing the resources which he has been denied by UKS since he returned from suspension in 2005.
Chambers, and other excluded athletes, may also have grounds for action against various meeting promoters, including UKA, who excluded them from lucrative grand prix events. Chambers could surely find a supporter willing to act pro bono on his behalf in both the UK and European Courts for publicity benefits alone.
While we supported the BOA's ineligibility stance, and that of UKS in denying resources to convicted cheats, as well as cheats' exclusion from major meetings, the law is the law even when it is an ass.
UKA say their board is routinely given legal advice, while UKS seemed unperturbed by any threat of litigation yesterday. "The CAS decision is about compliance of Signatories to the WADA code," they said, but they are reviewing their position.
The current UKS stance is that a doping violation involving suspension for two or more years receives a lifetime funding ban. "This position has been agreed by the UK Sport Board, which includes members from all the home country sports councils. The rationale is that receiving public funding is a privilege and not a right . . . While we are not minded to change our current position, now the BOA bylaw has been overturned it is sensible for us to review it."
Irrespective, they plan no change if any until after the Games.
The IOC wanted any suspension to cover the next Olympics yet fell in line with WADA, and one wonders why the BOA stuck their heads in the sand. By fighting this costly battle the BOA have wasted precious time which would have been better directed at lobbying WADA to adopt a four-year doping ban as standard.
It's not as if writing on the wall was ambiguous. Last summer, the French drug cheat Hind Dehiba won a restraint-of-trade action in the Swiss courts. This forced the Lausanne Diamond League to permit her to compete. We immediately stated that this would oblige CAS to follow Swiss precedent law and uphold subsequent appeals which would compel the BOA to fall in line with WADA. And we predicted that Chambers and Millar would be cleared to compete in 2012, if eligible.
In reaching their decision, CAS have betrayed sport – forelock-tuggingly subservient to the legal system of the country where it is based – with no regard for their responsibility for fairness or obligations to world sport. They are self-servingly worthless, demonstrably so in having ignored scientific research from Norway which demonstrates how those who have used drugs continue to benefit long after they stop using them.
Open though Chambers and Millar may have been about their offences, acting as penitent anti-doping missionaries, this is not exculpation. Athletes should not have to compete against those who have an unfair advantage. Honest athletes will be denied their Olympic dreams by cheats licensed by CAS and WADA. They stand discredited.
They need to consider this: Chambers is Britain's best 100m sprinter at 34, without any backing from the UK lottery system for almost nine years. During this time no UK sprinter – despite lottery support – has run as fast as Chambers either before or after his doping offence. Chambers has never been as consistently quick as he is now: 10.01, 9.99, 10.00, and 10.00 over the past four years. Indoors, over 60m, he has run as fast (6.41sec – which is quicker than Olympic champion Linford Christie in his prime) since returning from his doping ban as he did while using a cocktail of drugs.
Chambers has won world gold and bronze, and European gold and silver, at 60m, since 2009. This surely testifies to continued benefit (some might conclude intensifying benefit) from former cheating. Otherwise how have so many Brits on lottery support, despite almost a further decade's scientific and coaching refinement, been unable to challenge him?
Good luck to the BOA in persuading WADA to incease the doping penalty to four years – UKS are backing stricter penalties, and so did a recent UKA review. But WADA should also review the research, and ask why all that lottery resource is so ineffectual. If I'm wrong, UKA should appoint Chambers' coach as director of British sprint performance.