Its chairman, Lord Moynihan, claimed there is no choice but to take the case to the court of arbitration for sport in Lausanne after the World Anti-Doping Agency took legal advice from Michael Beloff QC, who concluded the BOA's lifetime ban for drug cheats does not comply with its code.
Wada, which wrote to the BOA this week to say "a court of arbitration is the right place for it to be tested" and attached Beloff's opinion, will meet on Sunday to decide on its next move. In the wake of the US 400m gold medallist LaShawn Merritt's successful challenge of the International Olympic Committee's rule 45 last month, which banned any athlete with a suspension of more than six months from the Games that followed, Wada has twice written to the BOA advising that its lifetime ban should be "tested by an appropriate tribunal".
"In light of this development, at a meeting today the BOA board of directors agreed to inform Wada that it will vigorously defend the interests of clean athletes by seeking a hearing before CAS to address the enforceability of its selection policy, and bring clarity and closure to this issue," said Moynihan. "Above all, the BOA hopes that raising this issue in this way will ensure the world of sport has an open and honest debate about the status and future of the anti-doping movement."
This week Moynihan launched a strong attack on Wada, claiming that its rules were "toothless" and needed a "full review". Wada's director general, David Howman, said the Merritt decision made the BOA's position on its lifetime ban – which affects the sprinter Chambers, cyclist Millar and shot putter Carl Myerscough – untenable. Wada's board was due to meet to discuss the issue on Sunday and will have to decide whether to take up the BOA's challenge to seek clarity at CAS.
"Because we had not heard anything from the BOA since 7 October we decided we should take prudent steps to deal with the question of whether the BOA was compliant with the code," said Howman. "This is an extremely simple issue. The CAS ruling on IOC's rule 45 went the way it did, establishing that the Osaka Rule was a sanction, not an eligibility issue. When we read the CAS decision on the IOC rule it became reasonably obvious to those that have an ounce of sense that the IOC was struck down because it is an extra sanction rather than an eligibility issue. The BOA rule falls into the same category."
But Moynihan will continue to argue the opposite – that the BOA's rule is an eligibility issue rather than an additional sanction – and said it had been advised by lawyers there is "every chance" it would win. It also claims the support of over 90% of British athletes for the rule, which bans any athlete with a drug ban of six months or more for life, and points to the appeals process.
"If we win it clearly draws a line in the sand," said Moynihan. "If we lose then the message is also clear to athletes. Therefore the three athletes that might be eligible are likely to compete. That is a very clear consequence. It's a long-term debate with immediate consequences."
Howman said Wada was still considering how to respond to Moynihan's trenchant criticism. "People can make strong comments but not if they are based on wrong facts," he said. "There are so many errors in the emotional tirade that he delivered that I prefer to ignore it. But it got him a lot of attention so we have no choice but to consider how to respond."
Millar and Chambers were banned for two years each in 2004, for taking EPO and the banned steroid THG respectively. In light of the Merritt decision, both have said they are considering their next move.
"It is beneficial for all affected parties to have a definitive ruling on whether the by-law is lawful," said Chambers's agent, Siza Agha. "I have read the decision, pleadings and a number of reports on the IOC rule 45 judgment in October and have reached my own conclusions. We will now monitor all progress with interest."
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