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

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Why the existing athletes' Olympic entering system does not comply with the fundamental principles of Olympism enshrined in the Olympic Charter - By Anna Antseliovich

Editor's note: Anna Antseliovich heads the sports practice at the Moscow-based legal group Clever Consult. She also works as a senior researcher at the Federal Science Center for Physical Culture and Sport (Russia).

The Olympic Games have always been a source of genuine interest for spectators as Olympians have repeatedly demonstrated astounding capacity of the human body and mind in winning Olympic gold, or by achieving success despite all odds.

At the ancient and even the first modern Olympic Games, there was no concept of a national team; each Olympian represented only himself/herself. However, at the 1906 Intercalated Games[1] for the first time, athletes were nominated by the National Olympic Committees (‘NOCs’) and competed as members of national teams representing their respective countries. At the opening ceremony, the athletes walked under the flags of their countries. This was a major shift, which meant that not only the athletes themselves competed against each other, but so too did the nations in unofficial medal standings.  

The nomination and selection of athletes by their NOCs to compete under their national flag and represent their country is a matter of pride for the vast majority of athletes. However, to what extent does such a scheme correspond to the ideals which the Olympic Games were based on in ancient times? Is it possible to separate sport and politics in the modern world? More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Legal and other issues in Japan arising from the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to COVID-19 - By Yuri Yagi

Editor's note: Yuri Yagi is a sports lawyer involved in Sports Federations and Japanese Sports Organizations including the Japan Equestrian Federation (JEF), the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), the Japan Sports Council (JSC) and the All-Japan High School Equestrian Federation.

1. Introduction

Japan has held three Olympic Games since the inception of the modern Olympics;Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in 1964, Sapporo Winter Olympic Games in 1972, and Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998. Therefore, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020) are supposed to be the fourth to be held in Japan, the second for Tokyo. Tokyo 2020 were originally scheduled for 24 July 2020 to 9 August 2020. Interestingly, the word ‘postpone’ or ‘postponement’ does not appear in the Host City Contract (HCC).

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) decided on 24 March 2020 that Tokyo 2020 would be postponed because of the pandemic of COVID-19. Later on, the exact dates were fixed ‘from 23 July 2021 (date of the Opening Ceremony) to 8 August 2021 (date of the Closing Ceremony).

The process of the decision is stipulated in the ‘ADDENDUM N° 4’ signed by IOC, TMG, JOC and TOCOG.

This paper provides an overview of the current situation, along with legal and other issues in Japan that have arisen due to the postponement of Tokyo 2020 due to COVID-19. The overview is offered from the perspective of a citizen of the host city and includes a consideration of national polls, the torch relay, vaccination, training camps, ever increasing costs, and the related provisions in the Candidature File and the Host City Contract. More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Stick to Sports: The Impact of Rule 50 on American Athletes at the Olympic Games - By Lindsay Brandon

Editor's note: Lindsay Brandon is Associate Attorney at Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs

“Tell the white people of America and all over the world that if they don’t seem to care for the things black people do, they should not go to see black people perform.” – American sprinter and Olympic Medalist John Carlos

On 21 April 2021, the Athletes’ Commission (AC) of the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) received the “full support of the IOC Executive Board for a set of recommendations in regard to the Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and Athlete Expression at the Olympic Games.” This came over a year after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost a year after the IOC and AC embarked on an “extensive qualitative and quantitative” consultation process to reform Rule 50 involving over 3,500 athletes from around the globe.

Since its introduction of the new guidelines in January 2020, Rule 50 has been touted by the IOC as a means to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games, stating that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or radical propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.”  In other words, the Olympics are a time to celebrate sport, and any political act or demonstration might ruin their “moment of glory”.

In fact, the Rule 50 Guidelines say that a fundamental principle of sport is that it is neutral, and “must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.” But this separation is not necessarily rooted in totality in modern sports culture[1], particularly in the United States (“U.S.”).  This is evidenced by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (“USOPC”) committing to not sanctioning Team USA athletes for protesting at the Olympics. The USOPC Athletes stated “Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values.” More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games - Introduction

Women In Sports Law (WISLaw) is an international, non-profit association based in Switzerland and aimed at promoting women in the sports law sector, through scientific and networking events, annual meetings and annual reports. WISLaw’s objectives are to raise awareness of the presence, role and contribution of women in the sports law sector, enhance their cooperation, and empower its global membership through various initiatives.

This year, WISLaw has partnered with the Asser International Sports Law Blog to organise a special blog symposium featuring WISLaw members. The  symposium will entail both the publication of a series of blog posts authored by WISLaw members, and a virtual webinar (accessible at with the Passcode 211433) to promote discussion on the selected topics. Article contributions were invited on the topic of legal issues surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In the midst of a pandemic and the rise of social justice movements around the world, the Games and their organisation gave rise to a number of interesting legal issues and challenges, which will be explored through a variety of lenses. 

We hope that you enjoy and participate in the discussion.

New Event! The Court of Arbitration for Sport at the European Court of Human Rights - Prof. Helen Keller - 26 May - 16:00

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. 

Register HERE!

Never let a good fiasco go to waste: why and how the governance of European football should be reformed after the demise of the ‘SuperLeague’ - By Stephen Weatherill

Editor’s note: Stephen Weatherill is the Jacques Delors Professor of European Law at Oxford University. He also serves as Deputy Director for European Law in the Institute of European and Comparative Law, and is a Fellow of Somerville College. This blog appeared first on and is reproduced here with the agreement of the author. 


The crumbling of the ‘SuperLeague’ is a source of joy to many football fans, but the very fact that such an idea could be advanced reveals something troublingly weak about the internal governance of football in Europe – UEFA’s most of all – and about the inadequacies of legal regulation practised by the EU and/ or by states. This note explains why a SuperLeague is difficult to stop under the current pattern of legal regulation and why accordingly reform is required in order to defend the European model of sport with more muscularity. More...

New Digital Masterclass - Mastering the FIFA Transfer System - 29-30 April

The mercato, or transfer window, is for some the most exciting time in the life of a football fan. During this narrow period each summer and winter (for the Europeans), fantastic football teams are made or taken apart. What is less often known, or grasped is that behind the breaking news of the latest move to or from your favourite club lies a complex web of transnational rules, institutions and practices.

Our new intensive two-day Masterclass aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) to a small group of dedicated legal professionals who have the ambition to advise football clubs, represent players or join football governing bodies. The course combines theoretical insights on FIFA’s regulation of the transfer market with practical know-how of the actual operation of the RSTP distilled by hands-on practitioners.

Download the full Programme and register HERE.

The Team:

  • Dr Antoine Duval is a senior researcher at the Asser Institute and the head of the Asser International Sports Law Centre. He has widely published and lectured on transnational sports law, sports arbitration and the interaction between EU law and sport. He is an avid football fan and football player and looks forward to walking you through the intricacies of the FIFA transfer system.

  • Carol Couse is a Partner in the sports team at Mills & Reeve LLP , with extensive in-house and in private practice experience of dealing with sports regulatory matters, whether contentious or non-contentious.  She has advised on many multi million pound international football transfer agreements, playing contracts and image rights agreements on behalf clubs, players and agents.
  • Jacques Blondin is an Italian lawyer, who joined FIFA inundefined 2015, working for the Disciplinary Department. In 2019, he was appointed Head of FIFA TMS (now called FIFA Regulatory Enforcement) where he is responsible, among other things, for ensuring compliance in international transfers within the FIFA Transfer Matching System.
  • Oskar van Maren joined FIFA as a Legal Counsel in December 2017, forming part of the Knowledge Management Hub, a department created in September 2020. Previously, he worked for FIFA’s Players' Status Department. Between April 2014 and March 2017, he worked as a Junior Researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut. He holds an LL.M in European law from Leiden University (The Netherlands).
  • Rhys Lenarduzzi is currently a research intern at the Asser International Sports Law Centre, where he focuses in particular on the transnational regulation of football. Prior to this, he acquired over 5 years of experience as a sports agent and consultant, at times representing over 50 professional athletes around the world from various sports, though predominantly football.

(A)Political Games? Ubiquitous Nationalism and the IOC’s Hypocrisy

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a L.LM. candidate in the European Law programme at Utrecht University and a former intern of the Asser International Sports Law Centre


1.     Sport Nationalism is Politics

Despite all efforts, the Olympic Games has been and will be immersed in politics. Attempts to shield the Games from social and political realities are almost sure to miss their mark and potentially risk being disproportionate. Moreover, history has laid bare the shortcomings of the attempts to create a sanitized and impenetrable bubble around the Games. The first blog of this series examined the idea of the Games as a sanitized space and dived into the history of political neutrality within the Olympic Movement to unravel the irony that while the IOC aims to keep the Olympic Games ‘clean’ of any politics within its ‘sacred enclosure’, the IOC and the Games itself are largely enveloped in politics. Politics seep into the cracks of this ‘sanitized’ space through: (1) public protests (and their suppression by authoritarian regimes hosting the Games), (2) athletes who use their public image to take a political stand, (3) the IOC who takes decisions on recognizing national Olympic Committees (NOCs) and awarding the Games to countries,[1] and (4) states that use the Games for geo-political posturing.[2] With this background in mind, the aim now is to illustrate the disparity between the IOC’s stance on political neutrality when it concerns athlete protest versus sport nationalism, which also is a form of politics.

As was mentioned in part one of this series, the very first explicit mention of politics in the Olympic Charter was in its 1946 version and aimed to combat ‘the nationalization of sports for political aims’ by preventing ‘a national exultation of success achieved rather than the realization of the common and harmonious objective which is the essential Olympic law’ (emphasis added). This sentiment was further echoed some years later by Avery Brundage (IOC President (1952-1972)) when he declared: ‘The Games are not, and must not become, a contest between nations, which would be entirely contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Movement and would surely lead to disaster’.[3] Regardless of this vision to prevent sport nationalism engulfing the Games and its codification in the Olympic Charter, the current reality paints quite a different picture. One simply has to look at the mass obsession with medal tables during the Olympic Games and its amplification not only by the media but even by members of the Olympic Movement.[4] This is further exacerbated when the achievements of athletes are used for domestic political gain[5] or when they are used to glorify a nation’s prowess on the global stage or to stir nationalism within a populace[6]. Sport nationalism is politics. Arguably, even the worship of national imagery during the Games from the opening ceremony to the medal ceremonies cannot be depoliticized.[7] In many ways, the IOC has turned a blind eye to the politics rooted in these expressions of sport nationalism and instead has focused its energy to sterilize its Olympic spaces and stifle political expression from athletes. One of the ways the IOC has ignored sport nationalism is through its tacit acceptance of medal tables although they are expressly banned by the Olympic Charter.

At this point, the rules restricting athletes’ political protest and those concerning sport nationalism, particularly in terms of medal tables, will be scrutinized in order to highlight the enforcement gap between the two. More...

“Sport Sex” before the European Court of Human Rights - Caster Semenya v. Switzerland - By Michele Krech

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...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Caster Semenya’s Legal Battle Against Gender Stereotypes: On Nature, Law and Identity - By Sofia Balzaretti (University of Fribourg)

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

Caster Semenya’s Legal Battle Against Gender Stereotypes: On Nature, Law and Identity - By Sofia Balzaretti (University of Fribourg)

Editor's note: Sofia Balzaretti is a Graduate research assistant and a PhD candidate at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) where she is writing a thesis on the Protection against Gender Stereotypes in International Law. In addition to research in human rights and feminist legal theory, she has also carried out some research in legal philosophy and on the relationship between gender and the law.


The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the monitoring body of track and field athletics, regularly submitted South African middle distance runner and Olympic gold medalist Mokgadi Caster Semenya to sex verification tests when it began questioning her sexual characteristics and speculating whether her body belonged on the Disorder of Sex Development (DSD) spectrum. DSD Syndrome is often defined as an “intersex condition” which affects the clear development of either/or genitalia, gonads and chromosomes into one distinctive sex or another. The spectrum of the intersex condition is particularly wide, and the disorder can sometimes be minimal - some cases of female infertility can actually be explained by an intersex condition.

The IAAF deemed the controversial sex verification tests necessary on the grounds that it was required to prove Semenya did not have a “medical condition” which could give her an “unfair advantage”. It was eventually found that, because of an intersex trait, Semenya did have abnormally high levels of testosterone for a woman, which, in the IAAF’s opinion, justified a need for regulatory hormonal adjustments in order for her to keep competing in the women’s category. The IAAF also funded research to determine how ‘hyperandrogenism’ affects athletic performance. In 2018, it issued Eligibility Regulations on Female Classification (“Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development”) for events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m and 1’500m. The IAAF rules indicated that in case of an existing high level of testosterone, suppression or regulation by chemotherapy, hormonal castration, and/or iatrogenic irradiation was mandatory in order to take part in these events.

Semenya and her lawyers challenged the IAAF Regulations in front of the CAS, who, in a very controversial decision, deemed the Regulations a necessary, reasonable and proportionate mean “of achieving the aim of what is described as the integrity of female athletics and for the upholding of the ‘protected class’ of female athletes in certain events” (§626).

The CAS Ruling

Semenya and her attorneys claimed that forcing her to get unwanted medication represented a violation of human rights. On the 1st May 2019, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of the restrictions placed on female athletes with high levels of testosterone by the IAAF. The direct consequence of this decision for Semenya was the obligation for her to take testosterone suppressants in order to continue competing in her category of IAAF events.

In March 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a resolution indicating the IAAF Regulations were “not compatible with international human rights norms and standards, including the rights of women with differences of sex development” and that there was “no clear relationship of proportionality between the aim of the regulations and the proposed measures and their impact.”

Because the Regulations established conditions and restrictions which were targeted at the female (or intersex) athlete population exclusively and did not impose any equivalent conditions or restrictions on male athletes, the CAS Panel considered that the Regulations were, prima facie discriminatory on grounds of legal sex. After reminding that “it is common ground that a rule that imposes differential treatment on the basis of a particular protected characteristic is valid and lawful if it is a necessary, reasonable and a proportionate means of attaining a legitimate objective” (§548), the Panel considered that its sole responsibility was to determine whether the DSD Regulations were necessary, reasonable and proportionate. As such, the Panel said it was “not required to (…) appraise the adequacy of the IAAF’s policy-making process”.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal and ordre public

A decision from the CAS can only be challenged at the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) on a limited number of grounds, enclosed in art. 190 al. 2 of the Federal Act on Private International Law (PILA), which include claiming that the principle of equal treatment of the parties or their right to be heard in an adversarial procedure has not been observed (lit. d) and that the award is incompatible with public policy (lit. e). At the beginning of June 2019, after an ex parte request, the SFT, Switzerland’s highest court, granted Semenya a temporary suspension of the IAAF rules on testosterone limits. She was able to compete over distances of 400 to 1’500m without medication, until the SFT issued a ruling.

Because it was considered that the discrimination was necessary, reasonable and proportionate in comparison with the vast majority of non-DSD women, the only outcome for Semenya’s lawyers was to argue on the violation of the principle of public order. The 30th July 2019, the SFT reversed the ruling that temporarily lifted the application of the IAAF’s regulations, thus impeding her to defend her 800m title at the World Championships in Doha in September 2019. The SFT concluded that “neither the allegation of an infringement of the principle of non-discrimination, nor the alleged violation of ordre public due to an infringement of their personality and human dignity appeared with high probability to be well founded”. Welcoming the decision, the IAAF stated that, in certain particular cases, “biology trumps identity”.

The elements of comparison
Body Policing

Admitting that “the imperfect alignment between nature, law and identity is what gives rise to the conundrum at the heart of this case” (§559), the CAS stated that:

“On true analysis, (…) the purpose of the male-female divide in competitive athletics is not to protect athletes with a female legal sex from having to compete against athletes with a male legal sex. Nor is it to protect athletes with a female gender identity from having to compete against athletes with a male gender identity. Rather, it is to protect individuals whose bodies have developed in a certain way following puberty from having to compete against individuals who, by virtue of their bodies having developed in a different way following puberty, possess certain physical traits that create such a significant performance advantage that fair competition between the two groups is not possible.”

The public opinion could not help but point the finger at the underlying hypocrisy of the decision, in comparison with similar cases, both inside and outside of the sports world. Firstly, the same type of policy and legal arguments are often held for controlling certain types of bodies exclusively, whilst leaving others out of the line of sight. In the sports world, it is certainly the case: think of the impressive decoration of Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps aligned with the god-like praises he received for his physical strength and capacity; for instance. On the contrary, leaving “abnormally” tall basket-ball players on the bench so as to give naturally shorter players a chance to win, or testing male athletes with poor athletic results in suspicion they might have low levels of testosterone seems absurd. In fact, the latter are only tested as to make sure they do not take anything effectively modifying their capacities in competing. Semenya and her lawyers did point to the fact that “it is illogical and unnecessary to regulate one genetic trait while celebrating all the others” (CAS decision, §53).

Out of the sports world, indications of “naturalness” in pro-life arguments or governments’ refusal to medically cover the suppression of hormones in transgender reassignment cases are also examples of body policing. The case therefore raises the central question of how stereotypes, especially gender ones, give a social meaning to a fact and how legal regulation can confirm it, thus perpetuating it.

The social  meaning of women and gender

Taking a step away from Semenya’s cause célèbre, it must be stressed that, for long, women were not accepted to compete in the Olympics and that their progressive integration was only made possible when a redefinition of the norms of femininity and masculinity, as they relate to sports and competition, occurred. This means that medical tests were carried out and, as a backlash to noticing the instability and fluidity of sex categories, those very categories were reinforced and redefined according to stereotypes. In other words, the sports world went very far to ensure there was a biological difference so that the natural and social order as it was could not be disrupted.

If we try to move away from the (in my opinion, sterile) debate on biological differences (remembering that the latter has also been explained by anthropologists as being a consequence of our gendered social order[1]), we should ask ourselves who has the power to define the norms of femininity and masculinity. “Woman” and “man” have very particular social meanings. Furthermore, commentators often qualify the sex verification tests as being racially flawed. In this sense, the discussion is also of epistemological importance: the bonus corpus is never the female body, and is always the white male one, with “naturally” good athletic abilities. True, scientific results are usually dependent on a certain political order[2], as are any other empirical social-situated findings. The CAS Panel said that an assessment of the likely impact of the DSD Regulations on wider society would require “an analysis of multifaceted sociological issues which are not amenable to judicial resolution by an arbitral tribunal (…)” (§518). And, as such, it is certainly not for an arbitration court to have the power to (re)define gender categories, which are intrinsically political and historical, and are not limited to the sports world.

Appealing to the ECtHR

If she does not prevail before the SFT, Semenya could still appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging a breach of Article 14 and/or Article 8[3]. It may give the Strasbourg Court an interesting opportunity to comment on gender opposition and binarity, as well as on the social limitations put on gendered bodies. The gender stereotypes discussion is not a new one; regional and international courts have had the opportunity, on many occasions, to comment on the need to combat harmful gender stereotypes[4]. However, they usually do so in relation to human rights law and to the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Even if, of course, not every unjustified discrimination is rooted in stereotypes[5], they seldom point at the wrong of gender stereotypes per se. Hopefully this may lead the ECtHR to further reflect on the harmfulness of gender stereotypes, beyond the well-established categories in need of protection against unjustified discrimination.

The CAS practically said that it was bound by biology. If anything, the results of the sex verification tests should have proven that Semenya’s body has incredible athletic abilities, with no requirements of medically modifying it whatsoever.


In a letter to the IAAF about their regulations, United Nations experts on health, torture, and women’s rights wrote:

“The assessment for ‘exclusion or treatment’ based on the IAAF regulations relies on suspicion and speculation, based on stereotypes about femininity. This effectively legitimizes widespread surveillance of all women athletes by requesting national federations as well as doctors, doping officials, and other official personnel to scrutinize women athletes’ perceived femininity, which can include appearance, gender expression, and sexuality. Women who are understood to be “suspicious” about their natural physical traits are tied to subjective and cultural expectations regarding which bodies and modes of gender expression are “appropriate,” or even valorised by adherence to traditional or normative aesthetics of femininity. Gender and sex-based stereotyping and stigma have a long history, not only of causing psychological harm to women and gender minorities, but also of increasing the possibility of violence against them.”

The social norms of gender act as a blur on reality, based on the stereotype that “a real woman” should not be that good of an athlete. It provides us with an overview of how public policy decisions are justified by scientific findings, operating in a gender-normative environment. The discrimination was considered “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” in comparison with the vast majority of non-DSD women, but it somehow appears to be a debate on the equality between women and men and on reaffirming the importance of the “fixed duality of sexual difference”[6]. The CAS Panel said that it was “faced with conflicting rights concerning the rights of female athletes who do, and do not, have DSD” (§554).

Interestingly enough, the more women are compared to each other, on the grounds of fairness, the stronger the female gender category is reinforced.

[1] Priscilla Touraille, Hommes grands, femmes petites : une évolution coûteuse. Les régimes de genre comme force sélective de l’évolution biologique, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme: Paris 2008.

[2] Thomas Laqueur, La Fabrique du Sexe: Essai sur le corps et le genre en Occident, Gallimard: Paris 1992.

[3] The ECtHR had considered an application brought following an unsuccessful appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal in the October 2018 decision ECtHR, Mutu and Pechstein v Switzerland, applications no. 40575/10 and no. 67474/10, ECLI:CE:ECHR:2018:1002JUD004057510, alleging breaches of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

[4] The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has broadly defined the notion of “harmful gender stereotypes”, as sexist beliefs, which include representing women in roles considered traditional; as mothers and household heads, as subordinates of men or as sexual objects. In 2013, the OHCHR prepared a report on sex and gender stereotypes, which outlines the practice of treaty bodies and their reference to gender stereotypes. The obligations of States with regard to stereotypes are those set out in Article 5 lit. a CEDAW, reinforced by Article 2 lit. f. which provides that States must “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women”. At European level, judgments of the ECtHR have concerned stereotypes related in particular to sexuality (Kalucza v. Hungary), reproduction (A. B. C. v. Ireland; R. R. v. Poland) or domestic violence (Valiuliené v. Lithuania; Opuz v. Turkey). See also Konstantin Markin v. Russia; Carvalho Pinto de Sousa Morais v. Portugal; Khamtokhu and Aksenchick v. Russia.

[5] Sophia Moreau, ‘Equality Rights and Stereotypes’ in Dyzenhaus, D./ Thorburn, M. (eds.), Philosophical Foundations of Constitutional Law, Oxford University Press : Oxford 2019.

[6] Hilary Charlesworth, ‘Foreword’, in Harris Rimmer S./Ogg K., Feminist Engagement with International Law, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham 2019.

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