LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- An IOC vice president backed Britain's national body Wednesday in its fight to keep drug cheats out of the games for life.
Thomas Bach criticized the World Anti-Doping Agency's decision last month to declare the British Olympic Association "noncompliant" with the global code on drug rules and sanctions.
Bach said the BOA case involved "overcompliance" rather than any failure to adhere to the rules.
"You cannot sanction an NOC which within its own authority tries to do the best in the fight against doping and is for all the rest fulfilling all the WADA requirements," he told reporters during the first day of a two-day IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne.
Britain is the only country that enforces lifetime Olympic bans for doping offenders. The BOA was the only national Olympic committee found in noncompliance by WADA, an embarrassment for the host nation of next year's London Games.
"I support initiatives of NOCs in their country where they deem they are legally feasible," said Bach, a German lawyer who heads the IOC's juridical commission. "You have to give the NOCs the freedom to at least try to do what they can do. If they are confident they can push it legally through, this is fine for me."
The BOA has strenuously defended its bylaw, describing it as an eligibility issue rather than a sanction, and plans to file an appeal in the coming days to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In October, CAS nullified the IOC rule that bars athletes who have received drug bans of more than six months from competing in the next games. CAS said the rule amounted to a second sanction and wasn't part of the WADA code.
The ruling cleared the way for American 400-meter runner LaShawn Merritt -- who completed a 21-month doping ban in July -- to defend his Olympic title in London next year.
While the IOC has accepted the verdict, Bach reiterated that the committee plans to push for the rule to be written into the revised WADA code that will be up for ratification in 2013.
Compliance with the WADA code is mandatory under IOC rules. The ultimate sanction for failing to comply is exclusion from the Olympics.
The IOC has stressed that Britain's national anti-doping agency, UK Anti-Doping, is "fully compliant" and there was no risk to athletes from the 2012 host nation.
"We fully support the independence of NOCs to set their own rules," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "We understand the BOA are taking the case to CAS. At some stage in the future, whatever the outcome, they will be fully compliant."
Bach said the code should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
"We have to see that the rules, just for the mere wording, are not turning against us," he said. "The spirit of the WADA regulations is to fight against doping. You have to interpret the rules in a way that they help in the fight against doping."
Adams said the IOC would work with national Olympic committees and international sports federations to find a way to reinstate the rule.
"Our rule was not meant as a sanction. It was to protect the integrity and value of the Olympic Games," IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said. "We need to understand the reasons for the CAS decision. Maybe the wording of our rule was not in the right line."
The British lifetime rule has been in place since 1992.
Among British athletes currently covered by the ban are sprinter Dwain Chambers, who served a two-year ban in the BALCO scandal, and cyclist David Millar, who was suspended for two years after testing positive for EPO.