7 Oct 2011

Olympic drug ban rule overturned

10:06 pm on 7 October 2011

The New Zealand Olympic Committee says it is disappointed by a ruling clearing the way for hundreds of previously banned drug cheats to compete at the 2012 London Games.

The international Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Thursday that a ruling by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was invalid and did not comply with the code of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Swiss court dismissed the IOC rule introduced in 2008 that banned athletes suspended for doping for six months or longer from competing in the summer Games in London or the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

In the United States alone, 33 previously banned athletes could be eligible to compete next year.

They include 400m runner LaShawn Merritt who is now able to defend his title in London. His 21-month ban after testing positive in 2009 and 2010 for a banned substance ended in July this year.

The ruling also potentially opens the way for New Zealand marathon runner Liza Hunter-Galvin, who was banned for doping in 2009, to gain selection.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee says it will now review its own rules which ban athletes from competition for four years after a first doping offence and for life for a second infringement and will also work with the IOC to toughen up the sanctions for drug cheats.

Drug cheats should get life ban - Willis

New Zealand 1500m runner and Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis believes drug cheats should be banned for life.

Willis says the first thing he wondered when he heard the announcement was whether banned Bahrain runner Rashid Ramzi, who competed against him at the 2008 Beijing Games, could now compete in London.

Willis says while he believes in giving people a second chance, disgraced athletes should not be allowed to compete again if it means they will be tempted to continue cheating.

He says athletes are often victims of the system and he would like to see penalties handed down to coaches also.