There is no clearer expression of the commitment British athletes have made to upholding the values of fair play and clean competition than the British Olympic Association’s (BOA’s) selection policy, which sets out the parameters under which an athlete may earn the ultimate honour of representing Team GB in the Olympic Games.
The selection policy (‘Eligibility Bye-law’) was introduced 19 years ago with the overwhelming support of British Olympic athletes, and as Team GB has made a steady climb to the top tier of the Olympic medals table, the resolve of British athletes to compete clean has never wavered. Through their continued support of the BOA selection policy, British Olympic athletes have made their voices heard: the only medals they are interested in winning are clean medals. It is a commitment that has earned British Olympic athletes the respect of their peers worldwide.
Recently, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued a decision that invalidated a rule by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which sanctioned an athlete found guilty of a doping offence to a one Olympic Games ban. The decision by CAS that the IOC’s rule was not valid has raised questions about the enforceability of the BOA’s own selection policy; which the BOA refutes not least because its policy is aimed at protecting Team GB and British athletes and not additionally punishing any athlete.
It is the BOA’s belief, shared by the overwhelming majority of athletes and most recently by the IOC Athletes’ Commission that the wilful, consistent and illicit use of banned performance-enhancing drugs is the worst form of cheating in sport and so the toughest sanctions should apply.
Fairness in selection is essential. Cheating really does have innocent victims. There is no redemption for the clean athlete denied selection by a competitor who has knowingly cheated. There is no Olympic Team kit for the clean athlete who, training year in year out is cheated out of selection by a drug cheat. These clean athletes who with their families and coaches have given their lives to compete fairly, face the prospect of never being selected in their lifetime.
The BOA wants to ensure that their voice is heard and as such the BOA has set out to vigorously defend any challenge to the selection policy, as it is a clear expression of the will and commitment of British Olympic athletes.
That challenge is now before the BOA. The BOA has received correspondence from the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) which confirms that it believes the BOA Eligibility Bye-Law is non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. Of course, the BOA strongly disagrees.
In light of this development, at a meeting today the BOA Board of Directors* agreed to inform WADA that it will vigorously defend the interests of clean athletes by seeking a hearing before the CAS to address the enforceability of its selection policy, and bring clarity and closure to this issue.
Above all, the BOA hopes that raising this issue in this way will ensure the world of sport has an open and honest debate about the status and future of the anti-doping movement.
As Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the BOA said:
“We think it is time for the debate to move forward; the overwhelming majority of athletes compete clean and they should be treated fairly across the world. We want to see all 204 countries which compete in the Olympic Games to be as robust as the BOA on this issue. It is unacceptable that over 60% of the countries in the Olympic Movement have anti-doping policies that are non-compliant with the WADA code. It is unacceptable that WADA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to clean up drugs in sport and yet the processes of detection are letting athletes down and the sanctions for those guilty athletes are getting weaker not stronger. As Steve Redgrave said ‘A two-year ban for doping is almost saying it is acceptable.’
I hope the integrity of the BOA’s position serves as a catalyst for the rest of the world to follow suit in our resolution and determination to defend our selection policy on behalf of our athletes and uphold the principles of fair play and clean competition upon which it was founded.”
*Conflicted Directors were not present