The BOA versus WADA hearing will take place at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday, potentially freeing David Millar to race at the Olympics.
The BOA is challenging a ruling by WADA that by-law 25 in their statute does not comply with the universal World Anti-Doping Code, sanctioning riders for the same offence twice, and is therefore unenforceable.
By-law 25 states that any athlete who is “found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation will be ineligible for membership or selection.”
After his two-year ban for EPO use in 2004, British star David Millar had been banned from competing at the Olympics.
If this bylaw is invalidated on Monday, it clears his way to compete at London 2012.
What is Millar’s own view? “As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going,” he told Cycling Weekly at last month’s Tour of Oman. “If anything changes, then I’d have to have a total rethink.”
With the decision nearing, we explain the ins and the outs of the case and what it could mean for David Millar.
All those acronyms give me a headache. What do they mean again?
BOA: British Olympic Association. The country’s Olympic committee. The BOA claims that 90% of its athletes backs the ban.
WADA: World Anti Doping Agency. An independent organisation overseeing and promoting the fight against doping at an international level.
CAS: Court of Arbitration for Sport. An independent institution that settles sport-related disputes.
IOC: International Olympic Committee. They run the summer and winter Olympics. The sports included, sponsorship deals, TV rights: it all goes through these guys.
Phew. Okay, so why is this happening on Monday?
It was set into motion when CAS informed the IOC that it could not enforce a lifetime ban against American 400m athlete LaShawn Merritt in October.
In late November, WADA ruled that the BOA bylaw violates their World Anti Doping Code, calling it “non-compliant.”
On receiving this, the BOA welcomed the chance for clarity, but wanted to uphold its lifetime ban: “On behalf of the overwhelming majority of British athletes, we will vigorously defend any challenge to the selection policy which bans drug cheats from representing Team GB.”
Cue a showdown at the CAS.
What’s changed since that November ruling?
Very little, apart from a host of commentators and ex-sportsmen weighing in with opinions.
Since returning from his ban in 2006, Millar has been a strong anti-doping advocate. He rides for fervently ethical team Garmin-Barracuda and sits on the WADA athlete committee.
But this is not about actions or opinions, redemption or personality.
It is a decision based on international justice, about applying one universal law or allowing each country to have its own selection criteria.
But if you were a betting person, what would you say?
Well, we’re no legal experts, but experts are confident that the court will find in favour of WADA.
The BOA is the only committee in the world that upholds this bylaw. Having signed up to the universal World Anti-Doping Code, imposing a different, exclusive law puts them in a tricky position legally.
Who else is affected by this decision?
Track-and-field athletes Dwain Chambers and Carl Myerscough, who also served past two-year suspenions for doping offences, could also be freed to race at the 2012 Olympics.
So, if CAS finds in favour of WADA, what happens next?
BOA would have to accept the CAS ruling. The IOC may have to enforce compliance.
And then Millar can be the experienced road captain working to help Cavendish win gold, right?
He’d have to gain selection to the team. More importantly – and less empirically than any of the legal jargon engulfing this issue – he’d have to make his mind up.
As Millar told CW, it requires a total rethink.
Imagine having to re-adjust your whole mindset towards the Olympics in a matter of moments, having being out in the cold for years.
Imagine competing in your home Olympics and being tarred with the prefixing brush of ‘returning former drugs cheat’ by media and fans. It’s potentially a continuation of living with the errors of his past.
Mark Cavendish has indicated that he would love Millar on the team, but Millar could yet opt out of the Olympics, even if his path is legally obstacle-free.