Dwain Chambers Loses High Court Challenge to Overturn His Lifetime Olympics Ban

By Blackshaw, Ian | The International Sports Law Journal, July-October 2008 | Go to article overview

Dwain Chambers Loses High Court Challenge to Overturn His Lifetime Olympics Ban


Blackshaw, Ian, The International Sports Law Journal


The decision on 18 July, 2008 by the English High Court (Mr Justice Mackay) not to overturn the British Olympic Committee (BOA) lifetime Olympics ban imposed on the British sprinter, Dwain Chambers, for a doping offence and allow him to compete in the Beijing Olympics, on the grounds that it is not an unreasonable restraint of trade is, in my opinion, a travesty of justice and a sad day for the widely held principle of the rehabilitation of offenders.

On the restraint of trade point, one argument before the Court was that the lifetime ban does not prevent Chambers from working but, I would counter that by saying that it does prevent him from participating in the Olympics--the dream of every athlete--and, as such, gaining other lucrative work from being an Olympian and possibly a gold medallist in his event. The BOA lifetime ban, in my opinion, is an unreasonable restraint of trade, because it goes further than is reasonably necessary to achieve its objective, namely, drug-free sport. In other words, it is disproportionate; the punishment does not fit the 'crime'. It was also argued on behalf of Chambers that the lifetime ban was contrary to UK and EU Competition Law, with which I would entirely agree, for the same legal reasons, namely disproportionality and the limits on the so-called 'sporting exception' in Competition Law matters.

On the rehabilitation point, in other walks of life, there is a clear policy to rehabilitate offenders, who have committed offences, so why should sport be different? He has served his time--his two years' ban imposed in 2003--and paid his debt to the sporting world and wider society. So he should be allowed to compete, if he has met the sporting criteria, which he has, by qualifying--quite fairly--for the 100 metres event in a time of 10 seconds! …

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