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British Olympic Association responds to athletes' legal challenge

(Reuters) - The British Olympic Association (BOA) says it has "formally responded" to a legal challenge over sponsorship rights brought by a group of its own athletes that could cast a shadow over its preparations for next year's Tokyo Games.

The group, which includes Mo Farah, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Laura Muir and Adam Gemili, are seeking to challenge an International Olympic Committee rule that bars them from using their name, image or performance in advertising during the Games without the IOC's prior consent.

"The BOA can confirm it has formally responded to the recent legal challenge brought against the BOA's interpretation of the IOC's Rule 40 in the UK," a BOA spokesperson said

The spokesperson said the BOA was trying to balance the desire for individual athletes to maximize personal sponsorship revenue with the need to preserve and enhance the current system of selling rights collectively.

The BOA met with the athletes' representatives last week in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

"However, despite those encouraging conversations, we have been dismayed by the ongoing legal tactics being conducted in the background, which in no way reflects the spirit of the discussions held," the spokesperson added.

"Therefore we have been forced to respond fully and robustly to the legal challenge and have done so in the best interests of all of the athletes we serve.

"We reiterate that it is clearly not in the interest of any party to enter into a protracted legal dispute ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games."

Gemili, who competes in the men's 100m and 200m, told the BBC last month that the rules limiting sponsorship were "ridiculous, unjust and unfair".

"For us it's about creating the opportunity for every single athlete to go out there and create their own marketing opportunities so they don't have to work a full-time job," he had added

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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