CAS Overturns IOC Rule Allowing Merritt to Defend Olympic Title

October 6, 2011

The highest court in sports has overturned a disputed International Olympic Committee (IOC) doping rule, clearing the way for reigning Olympic 400-meter champion LaShawn Merritt to defend his crown at next year’s London Games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) invalidated the IOC rule that bars any athlete who has received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next summer or winter games.

The case centered on Merritt, the American 400-meter gold medalist in Beijing who had been ineligible under the IOC rule to compete in London even though he completed his doping ban earlier this year.

The Unites States Olympic Committee (USOC) challenged the rule, contending it amounts to a second penalty for a single offense and violates global anti-doping guidelines. The IOC maintained it was a question of eligibility, not a sanction, and the Olympic body had the right to decide who takes part in its events.

The USOC and IOC went to CAS to seek a ruling well ahead of the London Games to avoid last-minute confusion before the Olympics start on July 27, 2012. They were told the rule in place was effective and wouldnt be overturned but obviously this is not the case.

“The rule was in our view an efficient means to advance the fight against doping, and we were somewhat surprised by the judgment since we had taken an advisory opinion from CAS on the rule and been given a positive response,” the IOC said in a statement.

The verdict against the IOC also opens the door for athletes in Britain to challenge a British Olympic Association rule that bans drug offenders for life from the games.

Among those affected by the British ban are sprinter Dwain Chambers, a former European 100-meter champion who served a two-year ban in the BALCO scandal, and cyclist David Millar, who also was suspended for two years for use of EPO.

The IOC’s reaction was of “surprise” and “dissapointment” of the decision but they maintained they would abide by the decision.

The IOC said in a statement: “The IOC has a zero tolerance against doping and has shown and continues to show its determination to catch cheats. We are therefore naturally disappointed since the measure was originally adopted to support the values that underpin the Olympic Movement and to protect the huge majority of athletes who compete fairly.”

The IOC pledged to review Rule 45, also known as the “Osaka Rule”, in the future.

“When the moment comes for the revision of the World Anti-Doping Code we will ensure that tougher sanctions, including such a rule, will be seriously considered,” added the statement.