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IOC to Pursue Doping Bans After Sports Court Overturns Rule

The International Olympic Committee will continue to attempt to ban athletes caught doping from future Games even after sport’s top court yesterday said the suspensions would be illegal.

Yesterday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Olympic organizers can’t ban athletes guilty of doping from taking part in the next Games because it amounts to double punishment. The court said the IOC can have anti-doping rules re-written to include an Olympic suspension, but that current legislation doesn’t allow the punishment.

“This is not the final word,” Denis Oswald, chairman of the IOC’s coordination commission, said at a press conference today in London. “We will work with the World Anti-Doping Agency and see how we can make sure that in the long term we implement that rule.”

Oswald and the coordination commission today completed their ninth visit to inspect the London 2012 Games. Next year’s event won’t be tarnished by the ruling, and 6,000 athletes will be tested before and during the Olympics, Oswald said.

“We don’t see any reason to really worry,” he said. “The best we can do is done in order to get the cleanest possible Games,” he added.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee, agreed.

“I have no issue about the reputation of the Games because we have a zero tolerance to drug abuse in sport and during the Games,” Coe said at the press conference.

The IOC in 2008 moved to stop those suspended for more than six months for a doping violation from taking part in the next Games, even if their ban had ended.

CAS Ruling

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found the IOC decision “is invalid and unenforceable,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Lausanne, Switzerland-based court.

The CAS decision means American 400-meter runner LaShawn Merritt can participate in the London Games next year. He was suspended for two years after testing positive for a banned substance that the athlete says he consumed accidentally. The ban was later reduced to 21 months.

Oswald also said he supported the British Olympic Association’s rule that bans athletes who’ve committed a serious doping offense from taking part in the Olympic Games for life.

British sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar -- who have both served drug suspensions in the past -- could start legal proceedings to get their Olympics bans overturned and force inclusion into the British team for the London Games.

“It’s stated in the Olympic Charter that each national Olympic committee has the right to establish the rule of eligibility on which they will select their athletes,” Oswald said. “And we fully understand that the BOA has had that rule for already a number of years, which has been challenged in different occasions, and it stands. We fully respect this right of the BOA.”

USOC Challenge

Coe, a double Olympic champion middle-distance runner, said it is “appropriate for an autonomous sporting organization to lay down whatever bylaws it thinks it needs in order to maintain the integrity of sport. My own personal view is that I would of course go for a life ban.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee challenged Merritt’s suspension from the Games, saying that it amounted to a three-year ban, which was a double punishment. The Court agreed, saying the Olympics can’t have their own suspension program outside the World Anti-Doping Code, which the Olympic organizers adopted as part of their own statutes.

CAS said the IOC should move to have the World Anti-Doping Code amended to include the Olympic ban should the Games organizers still want to implement the suspension rule.

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