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CAS overturns Olympic doping rule

7 October 2011

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on Thursday that the rule banning athletes suspended for doping for six months or more from competing at the Olympics was "invalid and unenforceable".

The decision came following a joint request from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the CAS to examine the validity of the rule.

"The IOC executive board's June 27, 2008 decision prohibiting athletes who have been suspended for more than six months for an anti-doping rule violation from participating in the next Olympic Games following the expiration of their suspension is invalid and unenforceable," read a statement from the CAS.

Several American athletes, including reigning Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt, would not have been able to compete at next year's Games in London if the rule had stood.

Merritt, 25, was banned for 21 months in October 2010 after testing positive for the anabolic steroid DHEA in three tests between October 2009 and January 2010.

His lawyer claimed the drug had been contained in an over-the-counter penis enlargement product and that Merritt had therefore consumed it inadvertently.

Merritt's ban was back-dated to October 2009 and he returned to competition in July this year before finishing second in the 400m at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea in August.

A CAS panel of three judges - one Canadian, one American and one Swiss - concluded that the rule did not conform to the World Anti-doping Code signed by the IOC and therefore represented a double punishment.

The panel also said that, as the IOC recognises the World Anti-doping Code, the legislation represented a violation of its own statutes.

The rule, article 45 in the Olympic Charter, was also known as the 'Osaka rule' and was adopted in June 2008 by the IOC's executive committee.

It prevented athletes who had been banned for doping offences for a period of six months or more in the four years leading up to an Olympics from competing in the next Games.

In a statement, the IOC said it would "fully respect" the CAS's decision, despite its "disappointment", and would not be launching an appeal.

The CAS said in its judgement that if the IOC wished to exclude athletes banned for doping from the Olympics, it was free to propose changes to the World Anti-doping Code.

The decision opens the door for athletes, including British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who had hoped to compete at next year's Games despite having previously served bans for doping offences.

AFP