During the 2023/2024 academic year, the Asser International Sports Law Centre will dedicate special attention to the intersection between transnational sports law and governance and gender. This online discussion is the first of a series of (online and offline) events which will explore the way in which international SGBs and the CAS define the gender divide in international sports, police gender-based abuses, and secure gender-specific rights to athletes.
Caster Semenya, a South-African runner and Olympic champion, was dominating her favorite distance, the 800m, for a number of years, when in 2018 the World Athletics (then known as IAAF) adopted a new set of regulations (colloquially known as the DSD Regulations), which imposed new conditions to the eligibility of athletes for certain female competitions, such as the 800m. Semenya, who has a condition known as differences in sex development (DSD), was forced to decide between subjecting to a specific medical treatment aimed at diminishing the level of testosterone in her body or stopping competing on her preferred distance. As she refused to undergo any medical treatment to regain eligibility, she decided to challenge the legality of World Athletics DSD Regulations before the CAS in Lausanne. While the CAS acknowledged that the Regulations were discriminatory and were disregarding the legal sex of Semenya in the name of a so-called sporting sex, the arbitrators also considered that this discrimination was justified and proportionate. Semenya’s challenge against the award was rejected by the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) in August 2020. As a last resort, she decided to lodge an application with ECtHR against Switzerland.
On 11 July 2023, the ECtHR released its judgment in the much-awaited Caster Semenya v. Switzerland case. In short, the Strasbourg Court sided with Semenya and concluded that Switzerland failed to comply with its positive obligations stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling is an important milestone in the interaction between the CAS and (European) human rights law. It will likely affect the place of human rights (and in particular the ECHR) at the CAS, the intensity of the supervision exercised by the SFT, as well as the justification of the regulatory decisions of the SGBs. We look forward to discussing these with our two speakers, who have followed closely the case and already blogged (here and here) about the judgment:
The online discussion will be introduced and moderated by Dr. Antoine Duval and Dr. Daniela Heerdt, and will include short presentations by the speakers and a Q&A with the audience.
Registration is available for free at: https://www.asser.nl/education-events/events/?id=4325
Editor’s note:Pedro is an intern at the Asser Institute and
currently studying the Erasmus Mundus Master Degree in Sports Ethics and
Integrity (KU Leuven et al.) He was one of the participants of the first
edition of the Summer Programme on Sports Governance and Human Rights.
In early September, the first Summer Programme on the Governance of Sport and
Human Rights took
place at the Asser Institute. During one week, various experts in the field
presented different lectures to a very diverse group of participants with a
wide range of professional backgrounds. Being a participant myself, I would
like to reflect on this one-week course and share what I learned. More...
On Thursday 14 October 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), will be launching the second season of the Zoom-In webinar series, with a first episode on Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Time for a Changing of the Guard?
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is a well-known mainstay of
global sport. It has the exclusive competence over challenges against
decisions taken by most international sports governing bodies and its
jurisprudence covers a wide range of issues (doping, corruption,
match-fixing, financial fair play, transfer or selection disputes)
including disciplinary sanctions and governance disputes. In recent
years, the CAS has rendered numerous awards which triggered world-wide
public interest, such as in the Semenya v World Athletics case or the
case between WADA and RUSADA resulting from the Russian doping scandal
(we discussed both cases in previous Zoom-In discussion available here and here). In short, the CAS has tremendous influence on the shape of global sport and its governance.
However, as we will discuss during this webinar, recent work has
shown that the arbitrators active at the CAS are hardly reflective of
the diversity of people its decisions ultimately affect. This in our
view warrants raising the question of the (urgent) need to change the
(arbitral) guard at the CAS. To address these issues with us, we have
invited two speakers who have played an instrumental role in putting
numbers on impressions widely shared by those in contact with the CAS:
Prof. Johan Lindholm (Umea University) and attorney-at-law Lisa Lazarus (Morgan Sports Law). Johan recently published a ground-breaking monograph on The Court of Arbitration for Sport and Its Jurisprudence
in which he applies empirical and quantitative methods to analyse the
work of the CAS. This included studying the sociological characteristics
of CAS arbitrators. Lisa and her colleagues at Morgan Sports Law very
recently released a blog post on Arbitrator Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport,
which reveals a stunning lack of diversity (based on their
calculations, 4,5% of appointed CAS arbitrators are female and 0,2% are
black) at the institution ruling over global sport.
Register for free HERE.
Zoom In webinar series
In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch the video recordings of our past Zoom In webinars on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel.
On Wednesday 26 May 2021 from 16.00-17.00 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), is organising its fifth Zoom In webinar on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
We have the pleasure to be joined by Prof. Helen Keller, former Judge at the ECtHR and a prominent dissenter to the majority’s ruling in the Mutu and Pechstein case.
The ECtHR decision
in the Mutu and Pechstein case rendered on 2 October 2018 is widely
seen as one of the most important European sports law rulings. It was
also the first decision of the Strasbourg court dealing with a case in
which the CAS had issued an award. The applicants, Adrian Mutu and
Claudia Pechstein, were both challenging the compatibility of CAS
proceedings with the procedural rights enshrined in Article 6(1) of the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The court famously declined
to conclude that the CAS lacked independence or impartiality, but did
find that, insofar as Claudia Pechstein was concerned, she was forced to
undergo CAS arbitration and, therefore, that CAS proceedings had to
fully comply with the procedural rights guaranteed in the ECHR. In
particular, the court held that the refusal by CAS to hold a public
hearing, in spite of Claudia Pechstein’s express request, was contrary
to Article 6(1) ECHR. Beyond this case, as highlighted by the recent
decision of Caster Semenya to submit an application
to the ECtHR, the decision opens the way for a more systematic
intervention of the Strasbourg court in assessing the human rights
compatibility of CAS awards and more broadly of the transnational sports
regulations imposed by international sports governing bodies.
Prof. Helen Keller will discuss with us the
implications of the ECtHR’s Mutu and Pechstein decision and the
potential for future interventions by the court in the realm of the lex sportiva.
The webinar will take the form of an interview followed by a short Q&A open to the digital public.
Please note the discussion will NOT be recorded and posted on our Youtube channel.
Editor's note: Michele Krech is a JSD Candidate and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow at NYU School of Law. She was retained as a consultant by counsel for Caster Semenya in the proceedings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport discussed above. She also contributed to two reports mentioned in this blog post: the Report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Intersection of race and gender discrimination in sport (June 2020); and the Human Rights Watch Report, “They’re Chasing Us Away from Sport”: Human Rights Violations in Sex Testing of Elite Women Athletes (December 2020).
This blog was first published by the Völkerrechtsblog and is republished here with authorization. Michele Krech will be joining our next Zoom In webinar on 31 March to discuss the next steps in the Caster Semenya case.
Sport is the field par excellence in which discrimination
against intersex people has been made most visible.
Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe
Issue Paper: Human rights and intersex people (2015)
Olympic and world champion athlete Caster Semenya
is asking the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to make sure all
women athletes are “allowed to run free, for once and for all”. Semenya
brings her application against Switzerland, which has allowed a private
sport association and a private sport court to decide – with only the
most minimal appellate review by a national judicial authority – what it
takes for women, legally and socially identified as such all their
lives, to count as women in the context of athletics. I consider how
Semenya’s application might bring human rights, sex, and sport into
conversation in ways not yet seen in a judicial forum. More...
On Wednesday 31 March 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), is organising its fourth Zoom In webinar
on the recent developments arising from the decision of the Swiss
Federal Tribunal (SFT) in the case Caster Semenya v. International
Association of Athletics Federations (now World Athletics), delivered on
25 August 2020.
The participation of athletes with
biological sex differences to international competitions is one of the
most controversial issues in transnational sports law. In particular,
since 2019, Caster Semenya, an Olympic champion from South-Africa has
been challenging the World Athletics eligibility rules for Athletes with Differences of Sex Development
(DSD Regulation), which would currently bar her from accessing international competitions (such as the Tokyo Olympics) unless she accepts to undergo medical treatment aimed at
reducing her testosterone levels. In April 2019, the Court of
Arbitration for Sport rejected her challenge against the DSD Regulation
in a lengthy award.
In response, Caster Semenya and the South African Athletics Federation filed
an application to set aside the award before the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
In August 2020, the SFT released its decision rejecting Semenya’s challenge of the award (for an extensive commentary of the ruling see Marjolaine Viret’s article on the Asser International Sports Law Blog).
Recently, on 25 February 2021, Caster Semenya announced her decision to lodge an application
at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against Switzerland on
the basis of this judgment. In this context, we thought it important to
organise a Zoom In webinar around the decision of the SFT and
the pending case before the ECtHR. Indeed, should the ECtHR accept the
case, it will be in a position to provide a definitive assessment of the
human rights compatibility of the DSD Regulation. Moreover, this
decision could have important consequences on the role played by human
rights in the review of the private regulations and decisions of
international sports governing bodies.
Participation is free, register HERE.
On Thursday 25 February 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), organizes a Zoom In webinar
on the recent award of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the
case World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) v. Russian Anti-Doping Agency
(RUSADA), delivered on 17 December 2020.
In its 186 pages decision
the CAS concluded that RUSADA was non-compliant with the World
Anti-Doping Code (WADC) in connection with its failure to procure the
delivery of the authentic LIMS data (Laboratory Information Management
System) and underlying analytical data of the former Moscow Laboratory
to WADA. However, the CAS panel did not endorse the entire range of
measures sought by WADA to sanction this non-compliance. It also reduced
the time frame of their application from four to two years. The award
has been subjected to a lot of public attention and criticisms, and some
have expressed the view that Russia benefited from a lenient
This edition of our Zoom in webinars will focus on assessing the
impact of the award on the world anti-doping system. More specifically,
we will touch upon the decision’s effect on the capacity of WADA to
police institutionalized doping systems put in place by certain states,
the ruling’s regard for the rights of athletes (Russian or not), and its
effect on the credibility of the world anti-doping system in the eyes
of the general public.
To discuss the case with us, we are very happy to welcome the following speakers:
Participation is free, register HERE.
The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret is launching a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In.
The first discussion (4 December at 16.00) will zoom in on the recent
arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in
the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations
In this decision, reminiscent of the famous Pistorius award
rendered a decade ago, the CAS panel ruled on the validity of an IAAF
rule that places the burden on a disabled athlete to prove that a
mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not
give them an overall competitive advantage. While siding with the
athlete, Blake Leeper, on the burden of proof, the CAS panel did
conclude that Leeper’s prosthesis provided him an undue advantage over
other athletes and hence that the IAAF could bar him from competing in
To reflect on the key aspects of the decision and its implications,
we have invited scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds to join
the zoom discussion.
The webinar is freely available, but registration here is necessary.
On 23 October 2020, a panel of the Court of
Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) rendered
an award in the matter opposing Mr Blake Leeper (‘Mr Leeper’ or ‘the
Athlete’) to the International Association of Athletics Federation (‘IAAF’).
The CAS panel was asked to make a ruling on the validity of the IAAF rule that
places on a disabled athlete the burden to prove that a mechanical aid used to
compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give such athlete an overall
The award is remarkable in that it declared
the shift of the burden of proof on the athlete invalid, and reworded the rule
so that the burden is shifted back on the IAAF to show the existence of a
competitive advantage. Thus, while the IAAF won its case against Blake Leeper
as the panel found that the sport governing body had discharged its burden in
casu, the outcome can be viewed as a victory for disabled athletes looking
to participate in IAAF-sanctioned events. It remains to be seen how this
victory will play out in practice. Beyond the immediate issue at stake, the
case further presents an illustration of how – all things equal – assigning the
burden of proof can be decisive for the real-life impact of a policy involving
complex scientific matters, as much as the actual legal prerequisites of the
This article focuses on some key aspects of
the award that relate to proof issues in the context of assessing competitive
advantage. Specifically, the article seeks to provide some food for thought
regarding burden and degree of proof of an overall advantage, the contours of
the test of ‘overall advantage’ designed by the CAS panel and its possible
bearing in practice, and potential impact of the ruling on other areas of
sports regulations such as anti-doping.
The award also analyses broader questions
regarding the prohibition of discrimination in the regulation of sports, as
well as the interplay with international human rights instruments such as the
European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), which are not explored in depth here. More...