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IOC to pursue rule restoration

LONDON -- Declaring "this is not the end of the story," the IOC said Thursday it will fight to restore its Olympic doping rule for future Games after a court overturned American gold medalist LaShawn Merritt's ban from competing in London next year.

"This is not a defeat," International Olympic Committee vice president Thomas Bach told The Associated Press. "We will not give up."

The Court of Arbitration for Sport threw out the IOC rule Thursday that bars any athlete who has received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next summer or winter games.

The three-man CAS panel said the rule, known as Rule 45, was "invalid and unenforceable" because it amounted to a second sanction and did not comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

The verdict clears Merritt, the Olympic 400-meter champion in Beijing in 2008, to defend his title at the London Games. The decision also affects dozens of other athletes around the world -- as many as 50 in track and field -- who had been covered by the rule.

While the IOC said it accepts the verdict and will comply, Bach said the Olympic body will push to get the regulation included in the next version of the WADA code, which will be revised in 2013. If accepted by all parties in the WADA rules, it should withstand legal challenge.

"This is not the end of the story," Bach, a German lawyer who heads the IOC's judicial commission, said in a telephone interview. "We'll try to convince all the stakeholders in WADA to adopt the rule which supports our aim.

"We have taken a position on moral grounds and we will try to make this moral decision also apply on the legal side."

The CAS verdict could also lead to challenges of Britain's lifetime Olympic ban for doping offenders, but British Olympic officials vowed to keep it in place.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure the eligibility bylaw remains in place," British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said.

The IOC adopted the rule in 2008 as part of its zero-tolerance approach on doping. In light of Merritt's case, the U.S. Olympic Committee challenged the rule and was backed by several other national Olympic and anti-doping bodies.

"We completely support the IOC in their efforts to have stringent anti-doping sanctions," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told the AP. "It's just that this case created uncertainty for our athletes. This was a mutual decision to get some clarity."

The IOC maintained it had the right to decide who can take part in its Games. But the CAS panel said the rule amounted to a form of "double jeopardy" rather than an issue of eligibility.

"I am disappointed because we wanted to strengthen the fight against doping," Bach said. "We wanted to protect clean athletes and enhance the image of the Olympic teams."

It's the second recent defeat for the IOC in a CAS case. In June 2010, two Belarusian hammer throwers had their Olympic medals reinstated by CAS because their samples had been mishandled by the Beijing laboratory.

"We have won many more cases than we have lost," Bach said.