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U.K.’s Chambers Cleared for Olympics After Court Ruling

U.K. athletes such as sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar will be eligible for the Olympics after the highest sports court ruled that a lifetime ban for drug doping is unlawful.

The British Olympic Association’s 20-year-old bylaw doesn’t comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on its website today.

“The bylaw is a doping sanction and is therefore not in compliance with the WADA Code,” the CAS said. “The CAS confirms the view of the WADA Foundation Board as indicated in its decision. Therefore, the appeal of BOA is rejected, and the decision of the WADA Foundation Board is confirmed.”

The decision means Chambers and Millar, who have both served drug suspensions, can compete to qualify for this summer’s London Olympics, which start July 27.

Britain is the only nation that has a life-time Olympic ban for athletes caught doping. Its bylaw had come under scrutiny after the CAS in October 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 International Olympic Committee in 2008 had 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.

“The BOA are clearly disappointed in the outcome,” chairman Colin Moynihan told a news conference today in London.

He said the ruling would be seen as “a hollow victory for WADA,” and called for “fundamental and far-reaching reforms” to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

This include longer suspensions for first-time doping offenders of four years including one Olympic Games instead of two years, Moynihan said.

That CAS decision paved the way for American runner LaShawn Merritt to defend his 400-meter and 4x400 meters titles in London. 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.

Chambers, 34, was banned for two years for steroid use in 2003. He was the first athlete to be suspended for testing positive for THG, the designer steroid distributed by Balco, the California-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative that was at the center of a U.S. probe of drug use by top athletes.

Chambers was stripped of his 2002 European 100-meter title, had his British 100-meter record of 9.86 seconds annulled and got a lifetime ban from the Olympics. After failing to overturn the life-time ban to make the British team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chambers won the European 60 meters title in 2009 and the world indoor championships in 2010.

“Dwain is in the top tier of sprinters in Britain,” the British Broadcasting Corp. quoted former 110-meter hurdles silver medalist Colin Jackson as saying yesterday. “There is no doubt he will be at the Olympics.”

Scotland’s Millar, 35, got a two-year ban in 2004 for testing positive for erythropoietin, or EPO, an endurance-boosting hormone that stimulates red blood cell production which may improve the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to the body’s muscles.

Following their suspensions, both Chambers and Millar have cooperated with anti-doping authorities in order to crack down on doping offences.

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