Olympic champions Steve Redgrave and Kelly Holmes and nearly 100 other top British sports names have signed a petition aimed at blocking a bid by sprinter Dwain Chambers to compete at the Beijing Olympic Games after a drugs ban.
Chambers, 30, has returned to competition after serving a two-year ban, having tested positive for the anabolic steroid tetrahydrogestrinone in 2003, and gained a 60m silver medal at the world indoor championships in March this year.
He is seeking to overturn a British Olympic Association (BOA) bylaw preventing anyone found guilty of a doping offense from competing for Britain at the Olympics.
Redgrave, who won rowing gold medals at five Olympics, and Holmes, double athletics gold medalist in 2004, are among 95 members of the British Athletes' Commission, an independent body representing Olympians and Paralympians, who have published an open letter to support the BOA stance.
"We, the undersigned athletes, wish to express our public support for the British Olympic Association's bylaw on eligibility for membership of Team GB of persons found guilty of a doping offense," the letter said.
Redgrave, in his personal contribution to the letter, said: "Sport is going through a tough time with drug-related issues and we have to uphold a strong stance.
"Every athlete that competes for Great Britain knows the BOA's rules. If an athletic takes the risk of cheating then they have to accept the penalties that go with this."
Holmes, Olympic champion at 800 and 1,500m, wrote: "I have no hesitation in giving my full support to the BOA bylaw and their continuing commitment to seek a lifetime Olympic ban for sports people convicted of taking performance-enhancing drugs."
Another name on the petition is that of sprint rival Craig Pickering, European indoor 60m silver medalist in 2007, who was denied a place at the world indoor championships after he was beaten by Chambers in the trials. The pair could become teammates if Chambers gets the ban overturned in the High Court.
Chambers ran inside the Olympic 100m qualifying time twice at a meeting in Biberach, Germany, on Saturday, clocking 10.14 and 10.06 seconds.
The Guardian newspaper said on Monday the sprinter's representatives were planning to launch a legal battle against the bylaw by the end of this week.
Chambers was quoted as saying: "I have a good team and they're confident what I can do on the track and I'm confident what they can do in the court room."
After serving his two-year ban, he believes a lifetime punishment is unfair.
The BOA said in a statement on Sunday: "We can confirm that the British Olympic Association has not received service of any proceedings from lawyers acting on behalf of Dwain Chambers.
"In the interests of the British Olympic movement and the athletes who aspire to line up at an Olympic Games and our youngsters looking for Olympic glory in London, the BOA confirms that it will vigorously and unequivocally defend its lifetime ban on drug cheats who have brought themselves and their sports into disrepute."
Chambers's lawyers will have to act quickly. The British Olympic trials take place on July 11 and the BOA will name its team for Beijing before July 20.
(Agencies via China Daily July 2, 2008)