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Court of Arbitration for Sport

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John Coates


Court of Arbitration for Sport

Authorized by
International Olympic Committee (Olympic Charter)

Decisions are appealed to
Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland

Avenue de Beaumont 2, 1012 Lausanne, Switzerland

Palace of Justice, Esplanade de Montbenon, Internatio Olympic Committee, Sports universita, Tribunal des mesures

Sports law and the court of arbitration for sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS; French: Tribunal arbitral du sport, TAS) is an international quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sport through arbitration. Its headquarters are in Lausanne (Switzerland) and its courts are located in New York City, Sydney and Lausanne. Temporary courts are established in current Olympic host cities.


Sports law in 5 minutes the court of arbitration for sport

Jurisdiction and appeals

Generally speaking, a dispute may be submitted to the CAS only if there is an arbitration agreement between the parties which specifies recourse to the CAS. According to rule 61 of the Olympic Charter, all disputes in connection with the Olympic Games can only be submitted to CAS.

All Olympic International Federations (IF) have recognised the jurisdiction of CAS for at least some disputes.

Through compliance with the 2009 World Anti-Doping Code, all signatories, including all Olympic International Federations and National Olympic Committees, have recognised the jurisdiction of CAS for anti-doping rule violations. Starting in 2016, an anti-doping division of CAS judges doping cases at the Olympic Games, replacing the IOC disciplinary commission. These decisions can be appealed to CAS's ad hoc court in the Olympic host city or, if the ad hoc court is no longer available, to the permanent CAS. The inaugural anti-doping division handled eight cases, of which seven where doping cases within its jurisdiction.

As a Swiss arbitration organization, decisions of the CAS can be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. Appeals of arbitration decisions are generally not successful, and no evaluation of the merits is taking place and the evaluation is mainly based on whether procedural requirements have been met, and whether the award is incompatible with public policy. As of March 2012 there have been seven successful appeals. Six of the upheld appeals were procedural in nature, and only once has the Federal Supreme Court overruled a CAS decision on the merits of the case. This was in the case of Matuzalém, a Brazilian football player.

The Federal Court of Justice of Germany ruled against the German speed-skater Claudia Pechstein, recognising a lack of jurisdiction to revisit her case. The Federal Court ruled that CAS met the requirements of a court of arbitration according to German law, and that CAS's independence from the parties was secured by the method of selecting arbitrators and the possibility to appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.


With the intermixing of sports and politics, the body was originally conceived by International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch to deal with disputes arising during the Olympics. It was established as part of the IOC in 1984.

In 1992, the case of Gundel v. La Fédération Equestre Internationale was decided by the CAS, and then appealed to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, challenging CAS impartiality. The Swiss court ruled that the CAS was a true court of arbitration but drew attention to the numerous links between the CAS and the IOC.

In response, the CAS underwent reforms to make itself more independent of the IOC, both organizationally and financially. The biggest change resulting from this reform was the creation of an "International Council of Arbitration for Sport" (ICAS) to look after the running and financing of the CAS, thereby taking the place of the IOC. As of 2004, most recent cases that were considered by the CAS dealt with transfer disputes within professional association football or with doping.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is planning to move its headquarters from the Château de Béthusy to the south part of the Palais de Beaulieu (both in Lausanne).


  • In March 2011, the CAS decided its first case on athlete biological passports (ABP) when it suspended two Italian cyclists, Franco Pellizotti and Pietro Caucchioli, for two years based on evidence from their blood profiles.
    Prior to that, the case of skater Claudia Pechstein had been decided (2009/A/1912 & 1913) on similar grounds. Writing in the 2011/2 CAS Bulletin regarding the institution of the ABP program, CAS Counsel Despina Mavromati differentiated between the two types of cases and wrote:
  • It is noteworthy that CAS had already issued an award suspending an athlete based on the longitudinal profiling of the biological markers before the adoption of the ABP by the IFs [international federations]: in CAS 2009/A/1912 & 1913 [Pechstein], the Panel suspended an Olympic athlete after the biological data showed irregular blood values. According to CAS, those abnormal values were not caused by an error occurred in a laboratory, as the athlete asserted, but due to the banned manipulation of the athlete’s blood. The essential difference between ABP judgments and the CAS 2009/A/1912 & 1913 consists in that in the latter case the athlete’s blood data was drawn from a sample the athlete gave at the federations championships and therefore not from data gathered by an official systematic program run by the athlete’s union.

  • In 2001, the court decided the case of Andreea Răducan versus International Olympic Committee. This was a controversial anti-doping case, where it was fairly clear the athlete received cold and flu tablets from her doctor. This resulted in a positive urine test, with the court concluding: "The Panel is aware of the impact its decision will have on a fine, young, elite athlete. It finds, in balancing the interests of Miss Raducan with the commitment of the Olympic Movement to drugfree sport, the Anti-Doping Code must be enforced without compromise.”
  • The court is reluctant to overturn field of play decisions, though it may do so in cases where there is clear evidence that the officials acted in bad faith or with arbitrariness. In CAS 2010/A/2090, the CAS Panel explained that the reason for this is not a matter of jurisdiction, but of arbitral self-restraint.
  • In October 2011, in a case affecting the 2012 Summer Olympics, the court declared that a part of the Olympic Charter violated the World Anti-doping Code. The "Osaka rule" therein had prevented athletes suspended for at least six months for anti-doping rule violations from competing at the Olympic Games following the suspension's expiration. The court later re-affirmed this decision, when it struck down a long-standing by-law of the British Olympic Association (BOA) preventing the selection of athletes sanctioned for doping. Both the IOC and BOA have responded by campaigning for adding a similar rule at the next update of the Code, which will be in effect by the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • In July 2016 the CAS confirmed that the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) could not enter track and field athletes for the 2016 Summer Olympics, with the exception of those cleared by the IAAF under the new competition rules regarding "neutral athletes". As the IOC was not a party to the case, the panel found it lacked jurisdiction to decide on whether the IOC could allow such cleared athletes to represent Russia, allow them to compete independently, or refuse their participation entirely. The claimants disputed the validity and enforceability of IAAF Competition rule 22.1(a), regarding the suspension of the national federation (RusAF, formerly ARAF), and rule 22.1A, regarding the eligibility of athletes from suspended federations. The panel found that neither rule could be construed as sanctions, and for this and other reasons they were consistent with the World Anti-Doping Code. The panels commented on the futility of the challenge to the new rule 22.1A, noting that as the rule provided athletes from Russia a new route to participation a successful challenge would lead to the exclusion of athletes eligible under the rule, not the inclusion of other athletes. The panel decided against evaluating whether the principle of estoppel applies to sporting disputes, as it found the claims in this case would have failed. At the same time, in a separate decision, the panel rejected the appeals of 67 Russian athletes against the decisions of the IAAF denying their applications to appear as "neutral athletes" at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Darya Klishina was the only Russian athlete cleared by both the IAAF and the IOC, but the IAAF declared her ineligible on 12 August based on new information. On 15 August the CAS ad hoc court upheld Klishina's appeal.
  • The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided to ban Russia from the 2016 Summer Paralympics due to the findings of the McLaren report. The appeal of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) against the ban was dismissed by the CAS on 23 August. The court found that the suspension had a basis in the IPC rules, and stated that it "was proportionate in the circumstances". The panel noted that it had made no decision regarding the rights of individual athletes. In its reasoned decision the panel elaborated on this point, stating that adverse consequences for the athletes represented by the RPC was not a reason to absolve the organisation from its legal responsibilities. The panel dismissed the claim that the IOC decision should have influenced the IPC decision, noting that the organisations have separate charters and rules. As the IPC also acts as an IF the court referred to the case between the RWF and the IWF where the CAS upheld a similar suspension.
  • Other cases

  • In July 2015, in a case involving the issue of sex verification in sports, the CAS issued an interim arbitral award suspending the regulations used by the IAAF to determine whether athletes with hyperandrogenism were eligible to compete in professional women's athletics. The regulations stated that athletes with testosterone levels above 10 nmol/L were not allowed to compete in the female category. The regulations were challenged by Indian sprinter Dutee Chand. The panel ordered the IAAF to file scientific evidence regarding the connection between athletic performance and elevated testosterone levels within two years of the issuance of the interim award.
  • The court ruled in 2006 that Gibraltar had valid grounds for its application to join UEFA, forcing the organisation to hand it provisional membership. At the next UEFA Congress, however, Gibraltar was overwhelmingly rejected in a vote, due to lobbying from Spain, in defiance of the CAS ruling. Gibraltar subsequently became a member of UEFA in 2013. In May 2016 CAS partially upheld Gibraltar's appeal against a decision by FIFA denying membership. The court did not grant FIFA membership, but ruled that FIFA should grant a full membership as soon as possible. Gibraltar was granted membership at the FIFA congress held later the same month.
  • In 2010, the Irish Football Association (IFA) (the association of Northern Ireland) took its case to CAS after FIFA failed to prevent the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) (the association of the Republic of Ireland) from selecting Northern Irish-born players who had no blood link to the Republic. The CAS ruled in favour of the FAI and FIFA by confirming that they were correctly applying the regulations.
  • Notable doping cases of the 2016 Summer Olympics ad hoc court

    The ad hoc court for the 2016 Olympics had registered 18 cases by 3 August, surpassing the record two days before the Opening Ceremony. 11 of the cases were related to the various bans on Russian athletes related to the allegations of state-sponsored doping documented in the McLaren report. By the end of the Games the total number of cases was 28, 16 of which were related to the eligibility of Russian athletes.

  • On 3 August the ad hoc court dismissed the appeal of the Russian Weightlifting Federation against its complete suspension under article 12.4 of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) anti-doping rules. The panel stated that the findings of the McLaren report constituted "conduct connected with or associated with doping", and found that the IWF had acted within its discretion when it decided that the RWF had brought the sport of weightlifting into disrepute. The panel noted that the re-analysis of doping tests from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics had found nine cases of Russian athletes testing positive for Turinabol and stated that this indicated a centralized doping programme. Furthermore, the panel commented that the positive tests for Turinabol were consistent with the evidence provided by Dr Grigory Rodchenkov for the report.
  • A separate panel of the ad hoc court found that the International Rowing Federation (FISA) had correctly applied the eligibility criteria outlined in the IOC decision of 24 July when it denied the entry of 17 athletes. One of the criteria in the IOC decision was that the ROC could not enter athletes that had previously served a doping ban. The CAS panel deciding the case involving the rowers Anastasia Karabelshikova and Ivan Podshivalov found this criterion unenforceable, and ordered FISA to evaluate the athletes according to the remaining criteria. The panel referred to previous decisions on the "Osaka rule" and the BOA by-law. The panel compared the IOC decision with the IAAF decision on Russian athletes, and noted that the IOC, unlike the IAAF, had left athletes with a previous doping conviction without any path to participation, contravening principles of natural justice. The same conclusion was shortly thereafter reached in the case of swimmer Yulia Efimova, who subsequently competed and medalled at the Games.
  • In the cases of canoeists Natalia Podolskaya and Alexander Dyachenko and rower Ivan Balandin the panels dismissed the applications, upholding the part of the IOC decision of 24 July that removed the presumption of innocence from Russian athletes. Balandin challenged the legality of the IOC decision, while Podolskaya and Dyachenko only challenged its application. The panel in Balandin's case found no reason to annul the second paragraph of the IOC decision which, among other criteria, established that nobody implicated in the McLaren report was eligible for participation at the Games. The panel noted that while the decision establishes a presumption of guilt, this presumption is rebuttable by individual athletes. All three athletes were found to have benefitted from the "Disappearing Positive Methodology" described in the McLaren report and thus failed to meet the eligibility criteria of the IOC decision. The panels differed as to which standard of proof they required for the athletes' rebuttal of this presumption.
  • References

    Court of Arbitration for Sport Wikipedia

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