London: The London 2012 Olympics will not be tarnished by the overturning of a ban on athletes found guilty of doping, Games chief Sebastian Coe said Friday.
Thursday`s ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the International Olympic Committee`s (IOC) so-called Osaka Rule cleared the way for dozens of past doping offenders to compete at next year`s Games.
The IOC`s controversial Rule 45, introduced in 2008, banned athletes from competing at the next Games if they had been suspended for six months or longer for doping.
While underlining his support for life bans for proven dopers, double 1,500m Olympic champion Coe said the CAS`s decision would not damage the integrity of the London Games.
"First of all I have no worries about the reputation of the Games as we have a zero-tolerance policy to drug abuse in sport and during the Games we will provide all the infrastructure the IOC needs to carry out its testing process in the competition," Coe told reporters at the conclusion of the IOC`s penultimate Coordination Commission visit.
The CAS ruling means that American LaShawn Merritt, the Olympic 400m champion, is free to defend his title in London despite serving a 21-month ban for positive doping tests in 2009 and 2010.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) said Thursday it would not change its by-law which bans its own athletes from the
Olympics for life if they have served a suspension for doping.
It argues that its by-law is an eligibility ruling rather than a sanction and Coe, and the IOC, offered support to the BOA`s strong stance Friday.
"I always believe it`s appropriate for an autonomous sporting organisation to lay down whatever by-laws it thinks it needs in order to maintain the integrity of sport," Coe said.
"My view has not changed and I would of course go for a life ban (for those convicted of doping)."
Denis Oswald, leading the IOC Coordination Commission`s three-day visit to inspect London`s preparations, reiterated the IOC`s support for the BOA.
"It`s clearly stated in the Olympic charter that each National Olympic Committee (NOC) has the right on eligibility of their own athletes and we fully respect the NOC`s right to establish the eligibility of who they feel appropriate to compete," he said.
"The IOC has a zero-tolerance policy regarding doping and we had adopted the Osaka Rule as a way to strengthen our fight against doping so therefore we are disappointed that CAS didn`t follow our reasonings.
"But this is not the final word in this respect and we will work with WADA and see how in the long term we can implement the rule."
Oswald said 6,000 athletes would be tested during the Games next July and August and every participant would be tested at least twice in the build-up to the competition.
"We see no reason to worry that it will not be the cleanest possible Games," he said.