London 2012

Code dread

'BOA cannot rewrite the rules regarding drugs cheats'

Last Updated: 23/11/11 12:28pm

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Moynihan: he and the BOA cannot deviate from the WADA Code

Moynihan: he and the BOA cannot deviate from the WADA Code

David Millar could compete at the London Olympics after all, with the British Olympic Association's by-law, which imposes a lifetime ban on doping offenders, hanging by a thread.

"It is WADA's job to enforce the Code, even unpopular clauses, such as the one that allows drugs cheats to compete at the Olympics if they have served a ban."
Richard Moore Quotes of the week

The World Anti-Doping Agency said at the weekend that the by-law is "non-compliant" with the global Code. And so a picture has emerged of the BOA as the defenders of good old (British) fair play, engaged in a fight for the integrity of sport against - bizarrely - the wicked WADA, who seem determined to let the cheats back in.

Arguably, this is a very misleading picture. But there could be more behind it.

Colin Moynihan, the BOA chairman, has a mixed record in picking fights. But he has picked a good one this time. After all, most people's natural instinct will be to support the BOA.

And so Moynihan has found himself surfing such a tsunami of goodwill that it has washed away the controversy, not to mention embarrassment, of his recent battle with the London organising committee over a share of any profits from the 2012 Games.

Moynihan was bruised and bloodied by that fight. But he can't lose this one.

Even if the BOA is forced to scrap the by-law, allowing Millar and Dwain Chambers to compete in London, he will remain perched on the moral high ground, buttressed by the perception that drug-free sport is the loser, not the BOA.

Validity

Here's the problem, though.

The principle at stake has nothing to do with whether or not you believe that doping cheats deserve to be barred from the Olympics, and everything to do with the existence, and validity, of a World Anti-Doping Code.

The Code will only work if its signatories - who include governments, sports federations and anti-doping bodies, including UK Anti-Doping - adhere to it.

The whole point of the Code, adopted in 2004, is that it "provides the framework for harmonised anti-doping policies, rules and regulations," and addresses "the problems that previously arose from disjointed and uncoordinated anti-doping efforts." Which is a polite way of saying that, prior to the adoption of the Code, the fight against doping packed as powerful a punch as an alcohol-free cocktail.

It is WADA's job to enforce the Code, even unpopular clauses, such as the one that allows drugs cheats to compete at the Olympics if they have served a ban. If the BOA are allowed to deviate, and write their own rules - even those that are notionally anti-doping - it creates a precedent for others.

Ultimately, that could mean that some countries decide to dish out lesser penalties, or come up with their own list of banned products; it will also encourage FIFA and the ICC in their efforts to exclude footballers and cricketers from the 'whereabouts' programme of out-of-competition testing.

Breached

When the Code is breached, it is WADA's job to uphold it. A good example is the Alberto Contador case, which is being considered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport this week.

Despite his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France, the Spanish cycling federation cleared him. WADA (and cycling's world body, the UCI) have appealed that decision, because they fear that it breaches the Code.

If the Code is not universally adopted it will become unenforceable. Many leading figures in British sport, led by Moynihan and the BOA, seem to have adopted a siege mentality, but they miss the point.

While they protest that they are taking a stand against doping, one that will lead to a cleaner Olympics, the risk is that their "non-compliance" undermines the Code, and has the opposite effect.

Follow me on Twitter: @rbmoore73

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