Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

12th round of Caster Semenya’s legal fight: too close to call? - By Jeremy Abel

Editor's note: Jeremy Abel is a recent graduate of the LL.M in International Business Law and Sports of the University of Lausanne.


1.     Introduction

The famous South African athlete Caster Semenya is in the last lap of her long legal battle for her right to run without changing the natural testosterone in her body. After losing her cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Tribunal, she filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights (Court). In the meantime, the Court has released a summary of her complaint and a series of questions addressed to the parties of the case.

As is well known, she is challenging the World Athletics’ Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Regulations) defining the conditions under which female and intersex athletes with certain types of differences of sex development (DSDs) can compete in international athletics events. Despite the Regulations emanating from World Athletics, the last round of her legal battle is against a new opponent: Switzerland.

The purpose of this article is to revisit the Semenya case from a European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) perspective while considering certain excellent points made by previous contributors (see here, here and here) to this blog. Therefore, the blog will follow the basic structure of an ECHR case. The following issues raised by Semenya shall be analysed: the applicability of the ECHR, Semenya’s right to private life (Article 8 ECHR) and to non discrimination (Article 14 ECHR), as well as the proportionality of the Regulations. More...

[Conference] Towards a European Social Charter for Sport Events - 1 December - 13:00-17:00 - Asser Institute

Sport events, especially when they are of a global scale, have been facing more and more questions about their impact on local communities, the environment, and human rights. 

It has become clear that their social legitimacy is not a given, but must be earned by showing that sport events can positively contribute to society. During this half-day conference, we will debate the proposal of a European Social Charter for Sport Events in order to achieve this goal. 

In January 2021, a consortium of eight partners launched a three-year project, supported by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ scheme, aimed at devising a European Social Charter for Sport Events (ESCSE). The project ambitions to develop a Charter which will contribute to ensuring that sport events taking place in the European Union are socially beneficial to the local communities concerned and, more generally, to those affected by them. The project is directly inspired by the decision of the Paris 2024 bid to commit to a social charter enforced throughout the preparation and the course of the 2024 Olympics.

This first public event in the framework of the ESCSE project, will be introducing the project to a wider public. During the event we will review the current state of the implementation of the Paris 2024 Social Charter, discuss the expectations of stakeholders and academics for a European Social Charter and present for feedback the first draft of the ESCSE (and its implementing guidelines) developed by the project members. It will be a participatory event; we welcome input from the participants.

The Asser International Sports Law Centre, powered by the Asser Institute, is contributing to the project through the drafting of a background study, which we will introduce during the conference.

Please note that we can provide some financial support (up to 100 euros)  towards travel and/or accommodation costs for a limited number of participants coming from other EU Member States or the UK. To apply for this financial support please reach out to  `

Register HERE



New Event! Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Time for a Changing of the Guard? - Zoom In Webinar - 14 October - 4pm

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.

Guest speakers:


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.

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 2: The Multiple Layers of Multi-Club Ownership Regulation in Football - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys was an intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. He now advises on investments and Notre acquisitions in sport (mainly football) via Lovelle Street Advisory. Following a career as a professional athlete, Rhys has spent much of his professional life as an international sports agent, predominantly operating in football. Rhys has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and a Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Dame, Sydney, Australia. He is currently completing an LL.M at the University of Zurich in International Business Law / International Sports Law.

Having looked at the different types of investors in football in part one of this two-part blog series, “A non-exhaustive Typology”, it is fitting to now consider the regulations that apply to investors who seek to build a portfolio of football clubs.

One way to measure the momentum of a particular practice and how serious it ought to be taken, might be when that practice earns its own initialism. Multi-club ownership or MCO as it is increasingly known today, is the name given to those entities that have an ownership stake in multiple clubs. Within the little research and writing that has been undertaken on the topic, some authors submit that investors with minority stakes in multiple clubs ought not to be captured by the MCO definition.  This position appears problematic given some of the regulations draw the line at influence rather than stake.

There are now approximately 50 MCO’s across the football world that own approximately 150 clubs.[1] Given the way MCO is trending, one might consider it important that the regulations keep up with the developing MCO practice, so as to ensure the integrity of football competitions, and to regulate any other potentially questionable benefit an MCO might derive that would be contrary to football’s best interests.

In this blog, I focus on the variety of ways (and levels at which) this practice is being regulated.  I will move through the football pyramid from member associations (MA’s) to FIFA, laying the foundations to support a proposition that FIFA and only FIFA is positioned to regulate MCO. More...

New Event! Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the Right to Free Speech of Athletes - Zoom In Webinar - 14 July - 16:00 (CET)

On Wednesday 14 July 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organizing a Zoom In webinar on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the right to free speech of athletes.

As the Tokyo Olympics are drawing closer, the International Olympic Committee just released new Guidelines on the implementation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. The latter Rule provides that ‘no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas’. The latest IOC Guidelines did open up some space for athletes to express their political views, but at the same time continue to ban any manifestation from the Olympic Village or the Podium. In effect, Rule 50 imposes private restrictions on the freedom of expression of athletes in the name of the political neutrality of international sport. This limitation on the rights of athletes is far from uncontroversial and raises intricate questions regarding its legitimacy, proportionality and ultimately compatibility with human rights standards (such as with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

This webinar aims at critically engaging with Rule 50 and its compatibility with the fundamental rights of athletes. We will discuss the content of the latest IOC Guidelines regarding Rule 50, the potential justifications for such a Rule, and the alternatives to its restrictions. To do so, we will be joined by three speakers, Professor Mark James from Manchester Metropolitan University, who has widely published on the Olympic Games and transnational law; Chui Ling Goh, a Doctoral Researcher at Melbourne Law School, who has recently released an (open access) draft of an article on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter; and David Grevemberg, Chief Innovation and Partnerships Officer at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, and former Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). 

Guest speakers:

  • Prof. Mark James (Metropolitan Manchester University)
  • Chui Ling Goh (PhD candidate, University of Melbourne)
  • David Grevemberg (Centre for Sport and Human Rights)


Free Registration HERE

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 1: A non-exhaustive Typology - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys is currently making research and writing contributions under Dr Antoine Duval at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law. Additionally, Rhys is the ‘Head of Advisory’ of Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets.

Rhys has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. Rhys is an LL.M candidate at the University of Zurich, in International Sports Law. Following a career as a professional athlete, Rhys has spent much of his professional life as an international sports agent, predominantly operating in football.

Rhys is also the host of the podcast “Sportonomic”.


In the following two-part blog series, I will start by outlining a short typology of investors in football in recent years, in order to show the emergence of different varieties of investors who seek to use football as a means to a particular end. I will then in a second blog, explore the regulatory landscape across different countries, with a particular focus on the regulatory approach to multi-club ownership. Before moving forward, I must offer a disclaimer of sorts.  In addition to my research and writing contributions with the Asser Institute, I am the ‘Head of Advisory’ for Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets. I appreciate and hence must flag that I will possess a bias when it comes to investment in football.

It might also be noteworthy to point out that this new wave of investment in sport, is not exclusive to football. I have recently written elsewhere about CVC Capital Partners’ US$300 million investment in Volleyball, and perhaps the message that lingers behind such a deal.  CVC has also shown an interest in rugby and recently acquired a 14.3 per cent stake in the ‘Six Nations Championship’, to the tune of £365 million.  New Zealand’s 26 provincial rugby unions recently voted unanimously in favour of a proposal to sell 12.5 per cent of NZ Rugby’s commercial rights to Silver Lake Partners for NZ$387.5 million.  Consider also the apparent partnership between star footballer’s investment group, Gerard Pique’s Kosmos, and the International Tennis Federation.  Kosmos is further backed by Hiroshi Mikitani’s ecommerce institution, Rakuten, and all involved claim to desire an overhaul of the Davis Cup that will apparently transform it into the ‘World Cup of Tennis’. Grassroots projects, prizemoney for tennis players and extra funding for member nations are other areas the partnership claims to be concerned with. As is the case with all investment plays of this flavour, one can be certain that a return on the capital injection is also of interest.

So, what are we to conclude from the trends of investment in sport and more specifically for this blog series, in football? A typology elucidates that a multiplicity of investors have in recent years identified football as a means to achieve different ends. This blog considers three particular objectives pursued; direct financial return, branding in the case of company investment, or the branding and soft power strategies of nations.More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter: the wind of changes or a new commercial race - By Rusa Agafonova

Editor's note: Rusa Agafonova is a PhD Candidate at the University of Zurich, Switzerland   

The Olympic Games are the cornerstone event of the Olympic Movement as a socio-cultural phenomenon as well as the engine of its economic model. Having worldwide exposure,[1] the Olympic Games guarantee the International Olympic Committee (IOC) exclusive nine-digit sponsorship deals. The revenue generated by the Games is later redistributed by the IOC down the sports pyramid to the International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and other participants of the Olympic Movement through a so-called "solidarity mechanism". In other words, the Games constitute a vital source of financing for the Olympic Movement.

Because of the money involved, the IOC is protective when it comes to staging the Olympics. This is notably so with respect to ambush marketing which can have detrimental economic impact for sports governing bodies (SGBs) running mega-events. The IOC's definition of ambush marketing covers any intentional and non-intentional use of intellectual property associated with the Olympic Games as well as the misappropriation of images associated with them without authorisation from the IOC and the organising committee.[2] This definition is broad as are the IOC's anti-ambush rules.More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Freedom of Expression in Article 10 of the ECHR and Rule 50 of the IOC Charter: Are these polar opposites? - By Nuray Ekşi

Editor's note: Prof. Dr. Ekşi is a full-time lecturer and chair of Department of Private International Law at Özyeğin University Faculty of Law. Prof. Ekşi is the founder and also editor in chief of the Istanbul Journal of Sports Law which has been in publication since 2019.

While Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) secures the right to freedom of expression, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter of 17 July 2020 (‘Olympic Charter’) restricts this freedom. Following the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) relating to sports, national and international sports federations have incorporated human rights-related provisions into their statutes and regulations. They also emphasized respect for human rights. For example, Article 3 of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (‘FIFA’) Statutes, September 2020 edition, provides that “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights”. Likewise, the Fundamental Principles of Olympism which are listed after the Preamble of the of the Olympic Charter 2020 also contains human rights related provisions. Paragraph 4 of Fundamental Principles of Olympism provides that the practice of sport is a human right. Paragraph 6 forbids discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. In addition, the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) inserted human rights obligations in the 2024 and 2028 Host City Contract.[1] The IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration even goes further and aspires to promote the ability and opportunity of athletes to practise sport and compete without being subject to discrimination. Fair and equal gender representation, privacy including protection of personal information, freedom of expression, due process including the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial panel, the right to request a public hearing and the right to an effective remedy are the other human rights and principles stated in the IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Despite sports federations’ clear commitment to the protection of human rights, it is arguable that their statutes and regulations contain restrictions on athletes and sports governing bodies exercising their human rights during competitions or in the field. In this regard, particular attention should be given to the right to freedom of expression on which certain restrictions are imposed by the federations even if it done with good intentions and with the aim of raising awareness. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Blog Symposium: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment. By Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Blog Symposium: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment. By Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky

Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

Editor's Note
Marjolaine Viret: An attorney-at-law at the Geneva bar, specialising in sports and health law. Her doctoral work in anti-doping was awarded a summa cum laude by the University of Fribourg in early 2015. She gained significant experience in sports arbitration as a senior associate in one of Switzerland’s leading law firms, advising clients, including major sports federations, on all aspects of anti-doping. She also holds positions within committees in sports organisations and has been involved in a variety of roles in the implementation of the 2015 WADC. Her book “Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law” is scheduled for publication in 2015.

Emily Wisnosky: An attorney-at-law admitted to the California bar, she currently participates in the WADC 2015 Commentary research project as a doctoral researcher. She also holds an LLM from the University of Geneva in International Dispute Settlement, with a focus on sports arbitration. Before studying law, she worked as a civil engineer.


Doping often results from the illegitimate use of a therapeutic product. As a result, many Prohibited Substances and Methods are pharmaceutical innovations that are or have been developed to serve legitimate therapeutic purposes. Much is being done within the anti-doping movement to coordinate efforts with the pharmaceutical industry in order to prevent abuse of drugs that have been discontinued or are still in development phase. Conversely, at the other end of the range, some Athletes may require legitimate medical treatment and wish to receive that treatment without being forced to give up their sports activities.

This post takes a cursory look at how the World Anti-Doping Code (“WADC” or “Code”) tackles these issues and provides a summary of the main changes that affect the modalities for Athletes to receive medical treatment after the 2015 revision. The first part discusses the avenues open to an Athlete to compete while under treatment, namely by applying for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) or, in some cases, navigating the provisions governing conditionally prohibited substances. The second part addresses the consequences in case an Athlete should fail to take the proper avenues. The post closes with observations regarding the current system in light of one of the pillars of the anti-doping movement: the Athlete’s health.

1.     Obtaining Clearance to Compete – Therapeutic Use Exemptions and Conditional Prohibitions

Amendments to Procedural Requirements for Granting a TUE

An Athlete undergoing medical treatment that involves a Prohibited Substance must seek a TUE from the competent Anti-Doping Organisation (“ADO”). The 2015 regime preserves the “national vs international” distinction that existed under the previous rules. The basic principle is that International-Level Athletes request TUEs from their International Federation, while National-Level Athletes request TUEs from their National Anti-Doping Organisation (“NADO”)[1]. During the consultation process leading to the 2015 Code, recommendations were made for an international independent TUE Committee that would grant TUEs in a centralised manner. No such system has been introduced at this point, but the 2015 revision does take steps to ease the procedural burden and enhance clarity for those Athletes whose competition schedule would require multiple TUEs (e.g. those transitioning from national-level competition to international-level competition). In particular the 2015 Code:

§  Provides a streamlined process for Athletes seeking international recognition of a national-level TUE. These Athletes are now relieved from having to go through a whole new application process if they already have the benefit of a TUE granted by their NADO: they can have the TUE “recognised” by the International Federation, which “must” grant such recognition if the TUE is in compliance with the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions (“ISTUE”).

§  Encourages the automatic recognition of TUEs. ISTUE 7.1 newly encourages International Federations and Major Event Organizers to declare automatic recognition of TUEs, at least in part – e.g. those granted by certain selected other ADOs or for certain Prohibited Substances.

Another key procedural change reflected in the 2015 revision is an increased storage time for application data, in accordance with the extended statute of limitation period for initiating anti-doping proceedings from 8 to 10 years (revised WADC 17). During the TUE process, the application must include the diagnosis as well as evidence supporting such diagnosis[2]. This sensitive medical data is newly stored for 10 years under the revised 2015 regime for the approval form (versus 8 years under the 2009 regime). All other medical information must be kept for eighteen months from the end of the TUE validity[3].

Amendments to Substantive Requirements for Granting a TUE

The requirements to receive a TUE have been slightly adapted in the revised 2015 ISTUE, but not in a manner that would significantly alter the assessment. In short, the TUE Committee must find that the following four criteria are fulfilled:

  1. Significant impairment to the Athlete’s health if the substance or method were withheld,
  2. Lack of performance enhancement beyond a return to a normal state of health through the use of the substance or method,
  3. Absence of any other reasonable therapeutic alternative, and
  4. Necessity for use not a consequence of prior use without a valid TUE.

With regards to the manner in which these criteria operate, the 2015 revision:

§  Places the burden of proof on the Athlete. The 2015 ISTUE received an explicit addition that confirms and codifies the interpretation of the CAS panel in the recent ISSF v. WADA award (Article 4.1, in initio): “An Athlete may be granted a TUE if (and only if) he/she can show that each of the following conditions is met” (emphasis added). While a welcome addition for legal predictability, the hurdle for the Athlete to overcome is high and can lead to nearly insurmountable evidentiary situations, such as in ISSF v. WADA regarding beta-blockers in shooting and lack of additional performance-enhancement[4].

§  Remains silent as to the standard of proof. The requisite standard of proof to establish these substantive criteria is still not explicitly stated. Although the issue was left undecided in ISSF v. WADA, the solution most in line with the WADC and general principles of evidence seems the “balance of probability”-standard, as per the general provision for establishing facts related to anti-doping rule violations (WADC 3.1)[5].

§  Newly allows retroactive TUEs for “fairness” reasons. As a rule, TUEs must be obtained prior to using the Prohibited Substance or Method (ISTUE 4.2). Exceptionally, a TUE may be granted with retroactive effect, which mostly concerns lower-level Athletes for whom the applicable anti-doping rules accept such possibility (WADC 4.4.5), or for emergency situations (ISTUE 4.3). The 2015 ISTUE contains a new possibility to grant a retroactive TUE if WADA and the relevant ADO agree that “fairness” so requires. The scope of this new exception remains unclear. A recent award rejected an Athlete’s plea that (s)he did not “timeously” request a TUE based on ignorance of the system[6]. One may wonder whether fairness related reasons could offer a solution for situations of venire contra proprium factum, i.e. when the Athlete received assurance from a competent ADO that the substance or method was not prohibited[7] and the latter could thus reasonably be considered estopped from pursuing a violation based on a subsequent positive test.

Transparency for Conditionally Prohibited Substances

Only minor changes were made in the 2015 revision in the context of conditionally prohibited substances. Some categories of Prohibited Substances are widely used to treat minor conditions, including in the context of sports medicine. Moreover, their effects on the Athlete may depend on the mode of use. Thus, the Prohibited List prohibits the following substances only conditionally:

§  Beta-2 agonists (class S.3) – e.g. Salbutamol, the active ingredient of “Ventolin” –widespread against asthma in endurance sports. “Limits of use” have been determined that are deemed to reflect an acceptable therapeutic use of the substance[8].

§  Glucocorticoids (class S.9)[9], which have been the subject of debates for their use in sports medicine, are prohibited only when administered by certain routes (oral, intravenous, intramuscular or rectal). A contrario all other routes of application are permitted.

These categories require adjustments for establishing an anti-doping rule violation compared to the standard regime, as the finding of a violation calls for information beyond the mere detection of the substance. Unless a distinctive trait for dosage or route of administration can be identified directly during Sample analysis[10], the information must be gathered during results management and generally supposes explanations from Athletes regarding the causes that led to the findings. In particular, for these types of substances, the 2015 Code:

§  Applies a different burden of proof. Whereas the burden is on the Athlete to show that the criteria for a TUE are realised (see above), or to demonstrate the origins of the analytical findings to obtain a reduced sanction (WADC 10), for S.3 and S.9 substances proving dosage and/or route of administration is part of the requirements for a violation. A specific allocation of the burden to the Athlete is only provided in the Prohibited List for findings of Salbutamol and Formoterol above a certain Threshold. In all other situations, it ought to be sufficient for the Athlete to present credible explanations (e.g. listing the substance on the Doping Control form[11]) that the Prohibited Substance originated from an authorised Use. The burden of proof ought then to be on the ADO to convince the hearing panel to a comfortable satisfaction (WADC 3.1) that a prohibited Use occurred.

§ Prefers short-cut procedures and transparency. The International Standard for Laboratories (“ISL”) introduces the “Presumptive Adverse Analytical Finding” to promote procedural economy by allowing a laboratory to enquire with the Testing Authority whether a TUE exists prior to the confirmation step of the A Sample for a S.3 or S.9 class substance (normally the presence of a TUE is determined after report of the Adverse Analytical Finding, during the initial review by the ADO). The revised 2015 regime maintains this pragmatic solution, but seeks to foster transparency in order to avoid this short cut from being abused by ADOs to stop cases from going forward. The 2015 ISL makes it explicit that any such communication and its outcome must be documented and provided to WADA (ISL[12].


2.     Sanctions for Legitimate Medical Treatment without a TUE

An Athlete who is undergoing legitimate medical treatment that involves a Prohibited Substance, but does not have a TUE might – if tested – return an Adverse Analytical Finding. As mentioned above, an anti-doping violation cannot be invalidated for reasons of legitimate medical treatment, save in exceptional circumstances where the system allows for a retroactive TUE or for authorized Use of S.3 & S.9 class substances. Thus, Athletes will typically first turn to the options in the sanctioning regime to reduce or eliminate the sanction for Fault-related reasons. The success of this effort varies considerably from case-to-case, with no clear pattern emerging in the CAS jurisprudence.

The 2015 WADC has not improved the clarity of the situation for violations involving legitimate medical treatment, unless contamination is involved. In the 2009 WADC, if Athletes were “fortunate” enough to have inadvertently Used a Specified Substance then the Panel had the flexibility to settle on a sanction ranging from a reprimand and no period of Ineligibility, up to a two-year period of Ineligibility; if the Prohibited Substance was non-Specified, the shortest period of Ineligibility available was one year. This raises questions of fairness, since violations under similar factual circumstances, and with similar levels of fault are punished with very different sanctions.[13] The 2015 WADC remedied this disparate treatment when the violation involves a Contaminated Product.[14] No analogous exception to receive a facilitated reduction in the case of legitimate medical treatment is available, even though similar policy arguments could also be lodged in this context.

Before Athletes can seek to establish a Fault-related reduction, newly under the 2015 WADC they must first avoid a finding that the violation was committed “intentionally”. This prospect poses interpretational issues for medications[15]. According to the definition in WADC 10.2.3, “the term ‘intentional’ is meant to identify those Athletes who cheat.” However, the core of the definition defines “intentional” conduct as encompassing both knowing and reckless behaviour[16]. Since the violations considered in this post involve the knowing administration of a medication, it can be expected that Athletes will rely on the reference to “cheating” to argue that their conduct falls outside of this definition[17]. If they were to succeed with this line of argumentation before hearing panels, then their basic sanction starts at a two-year period of Ineligibility that is subject to further reduction for Fault-related reasons[18]. If they were to fail, they face a strict four-year period of Ineligibility, which would inevitably raise proportionality concerns for this type of violation.

The Fault-related reductions in the 2015 WADC, like those in the 2009 WADC, rest in an interpretive grey area for violations arising from legitimate medical use. A sanction can be reduced for Fault-related reasons if the Athlete can establish a factual scenario that is accepted to reflect No Fault or Negligence, or No Significant Fault or Negligence. On one hand, it is well-established that medications often contain Prohibited Substances, thus panels expect a high-level of diligence from an Athlete to avoid a violation arising from medications. Thus, these types of violations often are committed with a high level of negligence at least bordering on “significant” and at times approaching “reckless”[19]. As to the level of Fault, CAS panels are not consistent. One CAS panel found that a legitimate medical Use of a Prohibited Substance that could have been (and eventually was) excused by a TUE can implicate only a low-level of Fault[20], whereas others have come to the opposite conclusion, holding that the (alleged) ��legitimate therapeutic use” of a medication was “irrelevant”, and contributed to the Athlete’s significant level of Fault[21]. In light of these different characterisations, it is difficult to predict how a panel would sanction these violations under the 2015 Code.

Conclusion – Remember Health Considerations behind Anti-Doping

Athletes do not have it easy when it comes to reconciling necessary medical treatment with high-level competition in sport. The conditions for claiming the right to compete despite Use of a Prohibited Substance or Method are stringent, and the procedure at times burdensome. There is no doubt that the system must strictly monitor any possible abuse of medical treatment as a cover up for doping attempts. Nevertheless, this system should not escalate into penalising Athletes who had a legitimate need for treatment and resorted in good faith to such treatment, especially since in many cases the performance-enhancing effects of the Use of a Prohibited Substance or Method are hypothetical at most.

The current system requires considerable Athlete transparency in matters related to their health. The TUE process is not the only context in which Athletes may have to reveal information about medical conditions and/or ongoing treatment for these conditions. Apart from the disclosure of medication and blood transfusion that Athletes are required to make on the Doping Control form, the anti-doping proceedings themselves may bring to light information about medical conditions affecting the Athlete. This may occur either because the Athlete is bound to reveal information to build a defence, or because the detection system itself may uncover collateral data indicating a pathology – known or unknown to the Athlete[22].

In return for these expectations, the anti-doping movement must keep in mind one of its key stated goals – the protection of the Athlete’s health – when regulating matters implicating legitimate medical treatment. This protection must include efforts to avoid the Athlete inadvertently committing an anti-doping rule violation while under therapeutic treatment, which may include more systematic labelling of medication with explicit warnings. The attentiveness to the Athlete’s health, however, could go beyond these efforts and exploit the data collected as part of Doping Control also for the benefit of the Athlete. The current regime already allows for suspected pathologies detected on the occasion of Doping Control to be communicated to the Athlete on certain specific aspects[23]. As Athletes agree to disclose large parts of their privacy for the sake of clean sport, it might be desirable to explore paths through which clean sport might wish to pay these Athletes back by providing them and their physicians with an additional source of data on health matters, an aspect of Athlete’s lives that is always on the brink of being endangered in elite sports.

[1]             Article 4.4.4 further addresses the right for Major Event Organisations to provide specific requirements for their Events ; for more details, see Rigozzi A, Viret M, Wisnosky E, Does the World Anti-Doping Code revision live up to its promises? Jusletter, 11 November 2013, n° 173 et seq.

[2]             See e.g. ISTUE, Annex 2.

[3]             See WADA International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information, Annex A.

[4]             See Rigozzi A, Viret M, Wisnosky E, The ISSF v. WADA CAS Award: Another Therapeutic Use Exemption Request for Beta Blockers Shot Down, Anti-Doping Blog, 10 August 2015.

[5]             Ibid.

[6]             CAS 2014/A/3876, Stewart v. FIM, April 27, 2015. See, for a detailed analysis, see our comment on the Stewart CAS Award in Rigozzi A, Viret M, Wisnosky E, Switzerland Anti-Doping Reports, International Sports Law Review (Sweet & Maxwell), Issue 3/15, p.61 et seq, also available online at: wadc-commentary/stewart

[7]             The Prohibited List is an “open list”, which means that simply consulting the list does not always provide a conclusive answer as to whether a particular substance or method is prohibited. Prohibited Methods (“M” classes) need by their very nature to be described in somewhat general scientific terms that always leave a certain room for interpretation (see e.g. CAS 2012/A/2997, NADA v. Y). For substances (“S” classes), the precision of the description of the prohibition under the Prohibited List varies depending on the substance at stake.

[8]             Not to be confused with a Threshold concentration in the Sample. Only Salbutamol and Formoterol currently have a form of Threshold with a Decision Limit (in TD2014DL), beyond which the finding is presumed not to result from a therapeutic use and the Athlete needs to produce an administration study to invalidate the Adverse Analytical Finding.

[9]             New terminology under the 2015 Prohibited List. Up to the 2014 List, “glucocorticosteroid”.

[10]           In particular by finding Metabolites that differ depending on the route of administration. A solution codified e.g. in the revised TD2014MRPL, Table 1, for the glucocorticoid budesonide.

[11]           The standard Doping Control Form and ISTI 7.4.5 (q) invite Athletes to disclose all recent medication, supplements and blood transfusions (for blood sampling). On the legal implications of this disclosure, see Viret M, Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law, p. 573 et seq.

[12]           On the imprecise use of the term TUE, see Viret M, Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law, p. 379 et seq. ADOs would rely in practice on Athlete declarations on the Doping Control Form. The 2015 WADA Results Management Guidelines encourage ADOs to contact the Athlete to enquire about the route of administration if there is no TUE on the record (Section

[13]           See also our comment on the Stewart CAS award in Switzerland Anti-Doping Reports, International Sports Law Review (Sweet & Maxwell), Issue 3/15, p.61 et seq.

[14]           A new provision (WADC allows for these types of violations to be subject to a flexible zero-to-two year period of Ineligibility, regardless of the type of substance involved.

[15]           “Intentional” violations draw a four-year period of Ineligibility, whereas non-“intentional” violations start with a two-year basic sanction. Only non-intentional violations are subject to further reduction for Fault-related reasons. See, more generally, on intentional doping, the contribution by Howard Jacobs in this Blog Symposium.

[16]           Article 10.2.3 ab initio: “As used in Articles 10.2 and 10.3, the term ‘intentional’ is meant to identify those Athletes who cheat. The term, therefore, requires that the Athlete or other Person engaged in conduct which he or she knew constituted an anti-doping rule violation or knew that there was a significant risk that the conduct might constitute or result in an anti-doping rule violation and manifestly disregarded that risk.”

[17]           For a discussion of the expected role of the term “cheat” in establishing that a violation was “intentional”, see Rigozzi A, Haas U, Wisnosky E, Viret M, Breaking Down the Process for Determining a Basic Sanction Under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, International Sports Law Journal, June 10, 2015. On a related note, an argument akin to those made in the Oliveira/Foggo line of cases under the 2009 Code could also arise here: If Athletes do not have actual knowledge that their medications contain a Prohibited Substance, would purposefully consuming the product still be considered “intentional”?

[18]           Article 10.2.1 places the burden of proof to establish that the violation was not “intentional” on the Athlete if the violation did not involve a Specified Substance, and on the Anti-Doping Organisation to establish that the violation was “intentional” if the violation did involve a Specified Substance.

[19]           See, e.g. CAS 2014/A/3876, Stewart v. FIM, April 27, 2015, para. 79; See also, CAS 2012/A/2959, WADA v. Nilforushan, April 30, 2013, para. 8.21. In rare cases, Athletes have been able to establish No Fault or Negligence under very specific circumstances. See, e.g. CAS 2005/A/834, Dubin v. IPC, February 8, 2006.

[20]           See, e.g. CAS 2014/A/3876, Stewart v. FIM, April 27, 2015, para. 84 where the CAS panel held that the Athlete’s level of Fault must be considered “light” where he was prescribed the medication by a doctor and later obtained a TUE. See also CAS 2011/A/2645, UCI v. Kolobnev, February 29, 2012, paras. 87-90, which does not specifically address the possibility of obtaining a TUE, but confirmed a first instance decision (after weighing a list of factors) that a Prohibited Substance taken for purposes unrelated to sport performance, and upon medical advice fell at “the very lowest end of the spectrum of fault”.

[21]           See, e.g. the ITF Independent Anti-Doping Tribunal, ITF v. Nielsen, June 5, 2006, that found that it not relevant “whether the player might have been granted a therapeutic use exemption”. See also CAS 2008/A/1488, P. v. ITF, August 22, 2008, para. 19, which found it of “little relevance to the determination of fault that the product was prescribed with ‘professional diligence’ and ‘with a clear therapeutic intention’”. These cases were both referenced in CAS 2012/A/2959, WADA v. Nilforushan, April 30, 2013, para. 8.20.

[22]          See, as a prominent example, the Claudia Pechstein saga with respect to the explanations – doping or rare pathology? - for her abnormal blood values.

[23]           See the Guidelines for Reporting & Management of Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Findings in male athletes, as well as the recommendations for ABP expert review in the Athlete Biological Passport Operating Guidelines.

Comments are closed