The decision of whether British athletes with a past doping conviction including cyclist David Millar will be eligible to compete at the Olympic Games this summer will be announced in April, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has revealed.
CAS also confirmed that 12 March has been set as the date for the arbitration hearing between the British Olympic Association (BOA) and the World-Anti-doping Agency into the validity of the BOA bylaw that prevents athletes with a doping history from being selected for the Olympics.
Millar, now aged 35, was banned for two years between 2004 and 2006 after confessing to having used EPO while with Cofidis. He was also stripped of the world time trial title he had won in 2003, and in his autobiography, published last year, admitted he had taken EPO shortly before flying out to Canada for the event.
Mark Cavendish has said that he believes Millar is “redeemed” and that he wants the Garmin-Cervelo rider alongside him at the Olympic road race in July, just as he was in Copenhagen in September when he acted as road captain to the Great Britain team that helped the Manxman win the rainbow jersey.
Last week, Bradley Wiggins was involved in a row with the BBC, saying that it had misreported comments he had made regarding the issue. Meanwhile British Cycling’s Perfomance Director Dave Brailsford – who coincidentally was at dinner with Millar in Biarritz when French police arrived to arrest him – has said that it is keeping an eye on the situaion.
The legality of the BOA’s bylaw 25, which says “any person who is found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation will be ineligible for membership or selection to the Great Britain Olympic team” was thrown into doubt by a CAS decision last year regarding the American 400 metres runner, LaShawn Merritt.
That case found that in seeking to ban athletes who had served a doping ban of six months or more from competing at the next Games after returning from their ban, the International Olympic Committee was in effect punishing them a second time for the same offence.
Rule 45 of the IOC’s charter, which imposed the sanction, was found to be incompatible with the World Anti-doping Code, to which the IOC, like the BOA, is a signatory.
In the wake of that case, WADA wrote to the BOA to ask it to scrap the lifetime ban, with the latter deciding to take the decision to CAS “to bring clarity and closure to this issue,” which it describes as “a selection policy not a sanction."
Millar said at the time that he did not intend to personally challenge the BOA's bylaw, but that he would adopt a wait-and-see attitude towards the outcome of the CAS hearing.
Since returning to the sport in 2006, Millar has become a leading voice in the war against doping, and now sits on WADA’s athletes panel. He has also worked with UK Anti-Doping to give an insight into how athletes can become sucked into doping to help others avoid suffering a similar fate.
More than 30 athletes have in the past successfully challenged BOA lifetime bans. They include Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, banned for a year after three infringements relating to out-of-competition drugs tests.
That decision was upheld by CAS, but she subsequently won a case against the BOA on the lifetime ban issue, enabling her to go on and win gold in Beijing.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.