The British Olympic Association could be landed with legal costs of up to £200,000 if, as anticipated, it loses its attempt to bar Dwain Chambers and David Millar from competing in this summer’s Olympics.
The BOA is increasingly resigned to its policy of life bans for convicted drug users such as Chambers and Millar being overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), though it may have to wait up to another week for confirmation.
While the BOA is anticipating a ruling from the CAS next week, Telegraph Sport understands the verdict may not be handed down until handed down until Friday of next week, or sometime the week after.
The CAS has already postponed its own deadline of mid-April to give it more time to rule on the case, brought following a challenge from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).
Neither party has yet received a copy of the CAS judgment, and the CAS agreed not to publish the verdict this week after the BOA requested any verdict avoid London’s '100 days to go' celebrations.
The CAS was asked to mediate after Wada ruled that the BOA’s life ban does not comply with the global doping code, under which the maximum ban for serious offences is two years, or four in aggravated circumstances.
As Millar and Chambers have long-served their initial bans, and have both appeared in British teams at global events, they would be free to compete in London if the BOA is defeated. The BOA argues that it should be free to choose who it selects, and to consider “character” issues such as doping when doing so.
Lord Coe, the chairman of the London organising committee, on Friday backed the BOA’s stance. “I think it is right for sporting organisations to have the autonomy to decide who they want to see in their teams,” he said.
The cost implications of the case are among the issues the CAS is considering, with the losers potentially liable to meet the fees of the other side as well as their own.
Both the BOA and Wada employed some of the most experienced and expert figures in sports law to argue their cases, and the total costs have been estimated at £100,000-£200,000. With the BOA’s budgets under constant pressure it is a cost it can ill afford as it prepares to send its largest-ever team to an Olympic Games.
Any costs will be mitigated by the fact that the BOA’s counsel in the case, Adam Lewis QC and David Pannick QC, are understood to have agreed to appear for significantly reduced rates.
As well as who meets the parties’ costs, the CAS panel is also considering who should pay for the cost of the arbitration as a whole. In normal sports arbitration cases the CAS is a free service for governing bodies and agencies, but the court is thought to have ruled that this case may not qualify.
The BOA’s life ban has looked vulnerable since last November when, following a challenge by US sprinter LaShawn Merritt, the CAS ruled that an International Olympic Committee’s rule banning doping cheats from at least one Games in addition to its ban was incompatible with the Wada code.
Following a hearing before the CAS last month, the BOA has had little reason for optimism, with those close to the case on both sides predicting that the bye-law would be overturned.
The judgment may not be clear cut, however, with suggestions that even if Chambers and Millar are cleared to compete there will be significant comfort for the BOA in the ruling.
The CAS panel is likely to restrict itself to the legal issue of compliance with the Wada code, and could offer support for the BOA’s desire to preserve team places for clean athletes.
That CAS ruling in favour of Merritt exposed the gap between the desire of the Olympic movement to be tough on doping, and the rules of the agency it founded to police them, Wada.
Wada relies for its legitimacy on a single global standard for doping supported by all its signatories, including on sanctions. Currently it operates a standard two-year ban, and argues that the BOA and IOC rules represent additional sanctions.
Chambers’ lawyer, Siza Agha, said he would not comment on the outcome of the case until it has been published.
Meanwhile, Dave Brailsford, performance director of British Cycling, said he would consider selecting Millar, the British team’s “captain on the road” when Mark Cavendish won the world title last year, if he was eligible.
“My job is to pick the fastest team, the best team that can win that race in London,” Brailsford said. “I will get shown a list of people who are eligible, then I will look at performance and decide.”