Chambers fights for Beijing place

The sprinter Dwain Chambers will find out next week if he is eligible to compete at the Beijing Olympics.

British sprinter Dwain Chambers leaves the high court in central London.
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LONDON // Sprinter Dwain Chambers will find out next week if he is eligible to compete at the Beijing Olympics after a date was set for his legal challenge to the British Olympic Association's (BOA) life ban for drugs cheats. The full High Court hearing is unlikely to take place until next March but Chambers, who completed a two-year ban in 2006, will find out next Wednesday if he has a temporary injunction against the bylaw that would make him eligible for the Games.

Chambers, the fastest Briton over 100 metres this season, is aiming to secure a place in the top two at the event in this weekend's British trials in Birmingham. He is hoping that success on the track and in court will secure a place in the team for next month's Olympics. Chambers claims the lifetime ban, which applies to all sports, is an "unreasonable restraint of trade" but the BOA have pledged to fight for the right to continue to keep drugs cheats from wearing the British vest at any Olympics.

The sprinter's lawyer, Jonathan Crystal, told the judge at a preliminary hearing yesterday: "In order to disapply the ineligibility provisions the burden will be a high one, but we are satisfied that we will succeed in that task." However, Robert Englehart, for the BOA, said they would argue that the challenge cannot succeed and its poor prospects should be weighed in the balance when the judge considers whether to grant a temporary injunction.

Speaking after the brief hearing, Chambers said: "I need to get ready for Friday and Saturday, that's where the job really matters. I'm confident of what I'm capable of doing on my end, the rest is up to my legal team." Meanwhile, Australia's world 400 metres hurdles champion Jana Rawlinson has been forced to withdraw from next month's Olympic Games team because of a long-standing toe injury, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said yesterday.

Rawlinson, who won her second world championship title last year in Japan just months after giving birth to her first child, returned to competition in Poland last week after the toe problem and subsequent surgery in January kept her out for nine months. "The key to her Beijing chances would be how she pulled up from her Poland race and sadly she had been unable to train since she raced," the AOC said.

Rawlinson, 25, had been "racing against time for several months and has now exhausted all possible options". Rawlinson had earlier in the day been confirmed by the AOC in the athletics team and was probably the country's leading medal hope. Her chances had appeared to improve greatly with news that Russia's world record holder Yulia Pechyonkina was suffering heart problems and likely to miss Beijing, while leading Americans Lashinda Demus and Christine Spence both missed out on the Games in their country's trials last week.

It is the second Olympic setback of Rawlinson's career. She finished fifth at Athens after a knee injury hampered her final preparations, a year after winning her first world title in Paris. * Reuters