LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Sport's highest court will hold a hearing in March to rule on the British Olympic Association's lifetime ban for doping cheats.
Britain, the only country that enforces a life ban, could be forced to drop the rule ahead of the London Olympics if it loses its case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
CAS announced Monday that the hearing will be held on March 12, with a verdict expected to be issued in April.
The BOA filed an appeal to CAS last month, challenging a decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency to declare the British body “noncompliant” with the global anti-doping code.
WADA declared that the BOA's 20-year-old rule amounted to a second sanction. The British body maintains its bylaw is an eligibility issue.
The BOA's regulation came under scrutiny after CAS threw out the International Olympic Committee 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 double jeopardy and wasn't part of the WADA code.
The CAS 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.
Among British athletes currently covered by the BOA 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.
England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is also awaiting the outcome of the CAS hearing. He is currently ineligible for the British Olympic team after serving an eight-month ban for failing to show up for a routine doping test in 2004.
“Like every athlete, Rio Ferdinand has the right to appeal,” the BOA said. “Until he has done so successfully, he is not eligible for selection for Team GB.”
The BOA will be represented at the CAS hearing by three lawyers: Tom Cassels, David Pannick and Adam Lewis.
Lewis led the English Football Association's partially successful appeal last year against Wayne Rooney's three-match 2012 European Championship ban after he was sent off for kicking an opponent in a qualifying match against Montenegro. UEFA reduced the ban to two games, clearing Rooney to play in England's final group match.