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

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

On 18 May 2016, the day the first part of this blog was published, the Commission said in response to the Hungarian MEP Péter Niedermüller’s question, that it had “not specifically monitored the tax relief (…) but would consider doing so. The Commission cannot prejudge the steps that it might take following such monitoring. However, the Commission thanks (Niedermüller) for drawing its attention to the report of Transparency International.”

With the actual implementation in Hungary appearing to deviate from the original objectives and conditions of the aid scheme, as discussed in part 1 of this blog, a possible monitoring exercise by the Commission of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme seems appropriate. The question remains, however, whether the Commission follows up on the intent of monitoring, or whether the intent should be regarded as empty words. This second part of the blog will outline the rules on reviewing and monitoring (existing) aid, both substantively and procedurally. It will determine, inter alia, whether the State aid rules impose an obligation upon the Commission to act and, if so, in what way. More...

The Rise and Fall of FC Twente

Yesterday, 18 May 2016, the licensing committee of the Dutch football federation (KNVB) announced its decision to sanction FC Twente with relegation to the Netherland’s second (and lowest) professional league. The press release also included a link to a document outlining the reasons underlying the decision. For those following the saga surrounding Dutch football club FC Twente, an unconditional sanction by the licensing committee appeared to be only a matter of time. Yet, it is the sanction itself, as well as its reasoning, that will be the primary focus of this short blog.More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary’s tax benefit scheme revisited? (Part 1)

The tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision of 9 November 2011 marked a turning point as regards the Commission’s decisional practice in the field of State aid and sport. Between this date and early 2014, the Commission reached a total of ten decisions on State aid to sport infrastructure and opened four formal investigations into alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid and Valencia CF.[1] As a result of the experience gained from the decision making, it was decided to include a Section on State aid to sport infrastructure in the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation. Moreover, many people, including myself, held that Commission scrutiny in this sector would serve to achieve better accountability and transparency in sport governance.[2]

Yet, a recent report by Transparency International (TI), published in October 2015, raises questions about the efficiency of State aid enforcement in the sport sector. The report analyzes the results and effects of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme and concludes that:

“(T)he sports financing system suffers from transparency issues and corruption risks. (…) The lack of transparency poses a serious risk of collusion between politics and business which leads to opaque lobbying. This might be a reason for the disproportionateness found in the distribution of the subsidies, which is most apparent in the case of (football) and (the football club) Felcsút.”[3]

In other words, according to TI, selective economic advantages from public resources are being granted to professional football clubs, irrespective of the tax benefit scheme greenlighted by the Commission or, in fact, because of the tax benefit scheme. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – April 2016. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.  

The Headlines

This month saw the conflict between FIBA Europe and the Euroleague (more precisely its private club-supported organizing body, Euroleague Commercial Assets or ‘ECA’) becoming further entrenched. This dispute commenced with FIBA creating a rival Basketball Champions League, starting from the 2016-2017 season with the hope to reinstate their hold over the organization of European championships. The ECA, a private body that oversees the Euroleague and Eurocup, not only decided to maintain its competitions but also announced it would reduce them to a closed, franchise-based league following a joint-venture with IMG. In retaliation, FIBA Europe suspended fourteen federations of its competition (with the support of FIBA) due to their support for the Euroleague project.More...

The boundaries of the “premium sports rights” category and its competition law implications. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

In its decisions regarding the joint selling of football media rights (UEFA, Bundesliga, FA Premier league), the European Commission insisted that premium media rights must be sold through a non-discriminatory and transparent tender procedure, in several packages and for a limited period of time in order to reduce foreclosure effects in the downstream market. These remedies ensure that broadcasters are able to compete for rights that carry high audiences and, for pay TV, a stable number of subscriptions. In line with these precedents, national competition authorities have tried to ensure compliance with remedy packages. The tipping point here appears to be the premium qualification of sport rights on the upstream market of commercialization of sport TV rights.

This begs the question: which sport TV rights must be considered premium? More...

Guest Blog - Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): Legal Issues by Laura Donnellan

Editor's note: Laura Donnellan is a lecturer at University of Limerick. You can find her latest publications here.


On Tuesday the 12th of April, João Carvalho passed away in the Beaumont Hospital after sustaining serious injuries from a mixed martial arts (MMA) event in Dublin on the previous Saturday. The fighter was knocked out in the third round of a welterweight fight against Charlie Ward. Aside from the tragic loss of life, the death of Carvalho raises a number of interesting legal issues. This opinion piece will discuss the possible civil and criminal liability that may result from the untimely death of the Portuguese fighter.

It is important to note at the outset that MMA has few rules and permits wrestling holds, punching, marital arts throws and kicking. MMA appears to have little regulation and a lack of universally accepted, standardised rules. There is no international federation or governing body that regulates MMA. It is largely self-regulated. MMA is not recognised under the sports and governing bodies listed by Sport Ireland, the statutory body established by the Sport Ireland Act 2015 which replaced the Irish Sports Council. MMA is considered a properly constituted sport so long as the rules and regulations are adhered to, there are appropriate safety procedures, the rules are enforced by independent referees, and it appropriately administered.

The Acting Minister for Sport, Michael Ring, has called for the regulation of MMA. Currently there are no minimum requirements when it comes to medical personnel; nor are there any particular requirements as to training of medical personnel. The promoter decides how many doctors and paramedics are to be stationed at events. In February 2014 Minister Ring wrote to 17 MMA promoters in Ireland requesting that they implement safety precautions in line with those used by other sports including boxing and rugby.

Despite this lack of regulation, this does not exempt MMA from legal liability as the discussion below demonstrates.More...

Guest Blog - The Role of Sport in the Recognition of Transgender and Intersex Rights by Conor Talbot

Editor's note: Conor Talbot is a Solicitor at LK Shields Solicitors in Dublin and an Associate Researcher at Trinity College Dublin. He can be contacted at, you can follow him on Twitter at @ConorTalbot and his research is available at This piece was first published on the blog.

Sport is an integral part of the culture of almost every nation and its ability to shape perceptions and influence public opinion should not be underestimated.  The United Nations has highlighted the potential for using sport in reducing discrimination and inequality, specifically by empowering girls and women.  Research indicates that the benefits of sport include enhancing health and well-being, fostering empowerment, facilitating social inclusion and challenging gender norms.

In spite of the possible benefits, the successful implementation of sport-related initiatives aimed at gender equity involves many challenges and obstacles.  Chief amongst these is the way that existing social constructs of masculinity and femininity — or socially accepted ways of expressing what it means to be a man or woman in a particular socio-cultural context — play a key role in determining access, levels of participation, and benefits from sport.  This contribution explores recent developments in the interaction between transgender and intersex rights and the multi-billion dollar industry that the modern Olympic Games has become.  Recent reports show that transgender people continue to suffer from the glacial pace of change in social attitudes and, while there has been progress as part of a long and difficult journey to afford transgender people full legal recognition through the courts, it seems clear that sport could play an increasingly important role in helping change or better inform social attitudes.More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: The Final Whistle

Footballleaks is now operating since nearly half a year and has already provided an incredible wealth of legal documents both on TPO (and in particular Doyen’s contractual arrangements) and on the operation of the transfer system in football (mainly transfer agreements, player contracts and agents contracts). This constant stream of information is extremely valuable for academic research to get a better grip on the functioning of the transfer market. It is also extremely relevant for the shaping of public debates and political decisions on the regulation of this market. As pointed out on the footballleaks website, it has triggered a series of press investigations in major European news outlets.

In this blog, I want to come to a closure on our reporting on Doyen’s TPO deals. In the past months, we have already dealt with the specific cases of FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon, reviewed Doyen’s TPO deals with Spanish clubs, as well as discussed the compatibility of the TPO ban with EU law. In the Sporting Lisbon case, Doyen has since earned an important legal victory in front of the CAS (the ensuing award was just published by Footballleaks). This victory should not be overstated, however, it was not unexpected due to the liberal understanding of the freedom of contract under Swiss law. As such it does not support the necessity of TPO as an investment practice and does not threaten the legality (especially under EU law) of FIFA’s ban.

In our previous blogs on Doyen’s TPO deals we decided to focus only on specific deals, Twente and Sporting Lisbon, or a specific country (Spain). However, nearly six months after the whole footballleaks project started, we can now provide a more comprehensive analysis of the TPO deals signed by Doyen. Though, it is still possible that other, yet unknown, deals would be revealed, I believe that few of Doyen’s TPO agreements are still hidden. Thanks to footballleaks, we now know how Doyen operates, we have a precise idea of its turnover, its return on investments and the pool of clubs with which it signed a TPO agreement. Moreover, we have a good understanding of the contractual structure used by Doyen in those deals. This blog will offer a brief synthesis and analysis of this data.More...

Unpacking Doyen’s TPO Deals: TPO and Spanish football, friends with(out) benefits?

Update: On 14 April footballleaks released a series of documents concerning Sporting de Gijón. Therefore, I have updated this blog on 19 April to take into account the new information provided.  

Doyen Sports’ TPO (or TPI) model has been touted as a “viable alternative source of finance much needed by the large majority of football clubs in Europe". These are the words of Doyen’s CEO, Nélio Lucas, during a debate on (the prohibition of) TPO held at the European Parliament in Brussels last January. During that same debate, La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, contended that professional football clubs, as private undertakings, should have the right to obtain funding by private investors to, among other reasons, “pay off the club’s debts or to compete better”. Indeed, defendants of the TPO model continuously argue that third party investors, such as Doyen, only have the clubs’ best interests in mind, being the only ones capable and willing to prevent professional football clubs from going bankrupt. This claim constitutes an important argument for the defendants of the TPO model, such as La Liga and La Liga Portuguesa, who have jointly submitted a complaint in front of the European Commission against FIFA’s ban of the practice.[1]

The eruption of footballleaks provided the essential material necessary to test this claim. It allows us to better analyse and understand the functioning of third party investment and the consequences for clubs who use these services. The leaked contracts between Doyen and, for example, FC Twente, showed that the club’s short term financial boost came at the expense of its long-term financial stability. If a club is incapable of transferring players for at least the minimum price set in Doyen’s contracts, it will find itself in a financially more precarious situation than before signing the Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA). TPO might have made FC Twente more competitive in the short run, in the long run it pushed the club (very) close to bankruptcy.

More than four months after its launch, footballleaks continues to publish documents from the football world, most notably Doyen’s ERPAs involving Spanish clubs.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – March 2016. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 

Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The Headlines

The Belgian Court of Appeal released its judgment this month regarding Doyen’s legal battle against the FIFA TPO ban. The Appeal Court confirmed the first instance decision and ruled out any provisional measures to block the ban’s implementation (for an in depth review, see our blog post). More importantly, the Court reaffirmed that Swiss based sport federations are liable in front of EU Members’ States courts when EU competition law is involved. That means the next important step for this legal battle is whether or not the European Commission is going to open a formal proceeding (Doyen already lodged a complaint) to assess the compatibility, and more importantly, the proportionality of the TPO ban with EU law. Only a preliminary ruling by the CJEU could hasten the decision if one of the European national courts, hearing a case brought by Doyen (France or Belgium), decided to refer a preliminary question.More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Not comfortably satisfied? The upcoming Court of Arbitration for Sport case of the thirty-four current and former players of the Essendon football club. By James Kitching

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

Not comfortably satisfied? The upcoming Court of Arbitration for Sport case of the thirty-four current and former players of the Essendon football club. By James Kitching

Editor's note: James Kitching is Legal Counsel and Secretary to the AFC judicial bodies at the Asian Football Confederation. James is an Australian and Italian citizen and one of the few Australians working in international sports law. He is admitted as barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia. James graduated from the International Master in the Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport offered by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport in July 2012.


On 12 May 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had filed an appeal against the decision issued by the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal (AADT) that thirty-four current and former players of Essendon Football Club (Essendon) had not committed any anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) identified within the AFL Anti-Doping Code (AADC). The players had each been charged with using Thymosin-Beta 4 (TB4) during the 2012 AFL season.

On 1 June 2015, WADA announced that it had filed an appeal against the decision by the AADT to clear Mr. Stephen Dank (Dank), a sports scientist employed at Essendon during the relevant period, of twenty-one charges of violating the AADC. Dank was, however, found guilty of ten charges and banned for life.

This blog will solely discuss the likelihood of the first AADT decision (the Decision) being overturned by the CAS. It will briefly summarise the facts, discuss the applicable rules and decision of the AADT, review similar cases involving ‘non-analytical positive’ ADRVs relating to the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method, and examine whether the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (CAS Code) is able to assist WADA in its appeal.

This blog will not examine the soap opera that was the two years leading-up to the Decision. Readers seeking a comprehensive factual background should view the excellent up-to-date timeline published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Factual Background

“Blackest day in Australian sport”

The Decision ultimately derived from what one media commentator dubbed the “blackest day in Australian sport” .

On 7 February 2013, the chief executives of the five biggest Australian sports appeared beside the Federal Sports Minister, Federal Justice Minister, and CEOs of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA), and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) at a press conference which detailed the findings of a twelve month inquiry into Australian professional sport. The resulting report, “Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport”, set out that the ACC had identified or suspected widespread use of peptides and hormones in Australian professional sport.

Two days prior, Essendon had requested that ASADA and the AFL investigate whether prohibited substances had been administered to its players during the 2012 season.

AFL disciplinary action

On 2 August 2013, the AFL received an interim report from ASADA and eleven days later charged Essendon and four officers with engaging “in conduct unbecoming or likely to prejudice the interests or reputation of the Australian Football League or to bring the game of football into disrepute”. Essendon and three of the officials were ultimately sanctioned.

The grounds for the charges make for sobering reading. The highlights appear below (emphasis added):

51. With the assistance of Shane Charter (Charter), a convicted drug dealer, Dank ordered various peptides, or the raw materials for such peptides. The compounding of these substances was undertaken by Nima Alavi (Alavi) at the Como Compounding Pharmacy (Como). At least some of these substances were intended by Dank for administration to players at the Club and were in fact administered to players at the Club.

67. On 8 February 2012, at a meeting of players of the Club, Dank introduced four substances that were purportedly approved for use in accordance with the Protocol…

68. Following that meeting, 38 players at the Club signed “Patient Information/Informed Consent” forms in relation to these four substances…

69. If the dosages the subject of the “Patient Information/Informed Consent” forms were administered, the playing group would receive in the order of:

(a) more than 1,500 injections of AOD-9064 and Thymosin; and

(b) more than 16,500 doses of Colostrum; and

(c) more than 8,000 doses of Tribulus.

124. During the relevant period, the Club caused the following substances to be administered to players at the Club:

(a) Actovegin;

(b) unspecified amino acids

(c) unspecified multi-vitamins;

(d) AOD-9604 creams;

(e) AOD-9604 injections;

(f) Cerebrolysin;

(g) Colostrum;


(i) Lactaway;

(j) Lube-all-plus;

(k) Melatonin;

(l) Melanotan II;

(m) TA-65;

(n) Thymosin Beta 4;

(o) Traumeel; and

(p) Tribulus.

125. The use of these substances by the players was not approved by the Club’s medical staff, with the exception of AOD-9604, which was the subject of some sort of informal approval by Reid in February 2012.

126. In many instances the use of these substances failed to have proper regard to player health and safety.

127. Proper records were not maintained by the Club as to precisely which players received which of the substances referred to in paragraph 124 above, in which quantities and when, during the relevant period.

AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal

Applicable Rules

On 14 November 2014, the AFL issued identical infraction notices to the 34 players alleging use of the prohibited substance TB4 during the 2012 season in violation of Article 11.2 of the AADC. The players were provisionally suspended on the same day. The infraction notices were issued after the players were placed on the ADRV Register of Findings on 12 November 2014 by an independent Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel pursuant to the National Anti-Doping Scheme prescribed in the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006.

As the alleged misconduct occurred during the 2012 AFL season, the applicable version of the AADC was the 2010 edition. This version was effectively a mirror of the WADA Code 2009.

As such, the standards applied universally by sports disciplinary and anti-doping panels applied. Accordingly, AFL and/or ASADA bore the burden of proving each ADRV to the comfortable satisfaction of the AADT, bearing in mind the seriousness of each allegation made. Such standard of proof was greater than a mere balance of probability, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.[1] The AFL and/or ASADA were able to establish the allegations by “any reliable means”.[2]


The hearing was conducted on various dates between December 2014 and February 2015. The Decision was announced on 31 March 2015. However, its written reasons have never been made public. As such, determining the evidence that was available has been gleaned from numerous media reports (including this comprehensive piece by Gerard Whateley), public announcements, and leaked documents. The author has also had the benefit of discussing the matter with a number of parties close to the proceedings.

It was agreed by the parties that the case against each player had two limbs:

(i)           during the 2012 AFL season, the player used (through injections) TB4; and

(ii)          TB4 was a prohibited substance on the relevant WADA Prohibited List.

As a threshold issue, the AADT was comfortably satisfied that TB4 was a prohibited substance within the category of substances set out in s2 of the 2012 WADA Prohibited List:

any pharmacological substance which is not addressed by any of the subsequent sections of the list and with no current approval by any governmental regulatory health authority for human therapeutic use”.

Thus, the case turned on the ability of ASADA to discharge its burden of proof relating to the first limb. This limb was broken down into three elements, agreed by the parties, which formed the basis of the ASADA case:

(a)          TB4 was procured from sources in China;

(b)          TB4 was obtained by Alavi, compounded and provided to Dank in his   capacity as Sports Scientist at Essendon; and

(c)           Dank administered TB4 to each player.

This was essentially the same conduct, described above, for which Essendon and its four officials were sanctioned.

Charter, Alavi and Dank all refused to appear at the hearing, and ASADA failed in a last-ditch application to the Victorian Supreme Court to compel Charter and Alavi to appear pursuant to the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011.[3] As such, ASADA’s case was wholly circumstantial, and relied, in a large part, on testimony and documents provided to it by Charter and Alavi during its investigation, and statements made by Dank in the media.

The AADT thus had an unenviable task in determining the probative value of the evidence provided by key witnesses without having the benefit of observing them under examination and cross-examination. As such, the AADT held (emphasis added):

“Having considered all the evidence relating to the credibility and reliability of Mr Alavi, Mr Charter and Mr Dank … the Tribunal finds that the credibility of each of these principal participants is at a low ebb and each man in acting as he did in his own way and for his own motive saw a golden opportunity to “feather his own nest.” Their lack of credibility is reflected when their reliability is called into question and the Tribunal is satisfied that on a number of important issues their evidence on those issues was not only unreliable but also … dishonest.

In the absence of reliable direct evidence to establish that the players had used TB4, the decision of the AADT ultimately turned on these adverse credibility findings.

In relation to the first element, ASADA led (predominantly) documentary evidence to demonstrate that two shipments of substances (in December 2011 and February 2012) were procured from China, both of which included TB4, and were provided to Alavi. A substance in the second shipment was tested in May 2012 at a laboratory connected to the University of Melbourne, and the results proved the substance was TB4. As such, the substance that was purported to be TB4 in both shipments, as a result of the test results, was TB4.

After a thorough examination of the evidence and arguments of the players, and in particular, the fact that the majority of evidence had been obtained from dishonest witnesses, the AADT held that the first shipment had occurred, but that the second shipment had not. However, the AADT still considered the veracity of the test results, and whether they gave rise to the position that TB4 was procured in the first shipment. Faced with contrasting expert reports, which gave margin for error in the test results, the AADT ultimately held that “it is possible it was [TB4], but the Tribunal is not comfortably satisfied that it was”.

In relation to the second element, the AADT was not comfortably satisfied that TB4 was compounded or provided to Dank. As a result of its findings relating to the first and second elements, the AADT did not “consider it necessary to consider the third element…as it is dependent upon the first and second elements…being established and neither has been established to the comfortable satisfaction of the Tribunal”.

Accordingly, the AADT was not comfortably satisfied that the first limb required to prove the ADRV was made out, and exonerated each player of their charge.

Non-analytical positive “use”

The Decision is a classic non-analytical positive “use” case.[4] In this class of cases, as no adverse analytical finding is recorded, the relevant anti-doping organisation must rely on a combination of direct and/or circumstantial evidence in order to discharge its burden of proving use of a prohibited substance or method.

Comfortable Satisfaction

Prior to the implementation of the WADA Code, sports arbitration panels embryonically decided to apply a ‘comfortable satisfaction’ standard of proof; less than the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt but more than the ordinary civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities.[5]

This standard was preferred due to sports disciplinary cases not being criminal in nature, but rather, a private law of association type.[6] This principle has been consistently upheld and was espoused as such by the Swiss Federal Tribunal: “the duty of proof and assessment of evidence [are] problems which cannot be regulated, in private law cases, on the basis of concepts specific to criminal law”.[7]

However, precisely where this standard falls between the criminal and civil standards is unclear.[8] That anti-doping cases are presented in a quasi-criminal manner suggests they should be closer to the latter, but the private nature of sports disciplinary cases suggests that the lesser standard is more appropriate.

This distinction is significantly important to WADA overturning the Decision. In its press release after receiving the Statement of Appeal, the CAS recorded that “WADA requests that the CAS issue a new decision based on an appropriate burden of proof and evidentiary standards”. As such, it is clear that WADA considers that the standard of proof applied by the AADT was too high when considering the evidence.

However, an analysis of a number of prior decisions suggests that the standard of proof in this class of cases has always been close to the criminal standard. The jurisprudence suggests that Panels rely solely on direct and incontrovertible testimonial, documentary, and scientific evidence to sanction individuals for “use” violations.

pre WADA Code cases

In French[9], it was alleged that French used prohibited substances after the discovery of a bucket of used syringes, needles containing traces of a prohibited substance, and a supplement whose label stated that it contained a prohibited substance, inside his room at his athlete residence. The CAS, however, was not comfortably satisfied as there was “no direct evidence that Mr. French had used the material in the sense that no-one saw him use it and he has consistently denied use”.[10] Furthermore, that the label stated the name of the prohibited substance was not sufficient to prove that the supplement actually contained the prohibited substance.[11]

In A., B., C., D., E. v IOC[12], five simultaneously-decided cases, the CAS held that admissions of undertaking or performing blood transfusions, coupled with the discovery of instruments and chemicals necessary for blood-doping in their residence during the 2002 Winter Olympics, was sufficient evidence to sanction four individuals for using a prohibited method. In the absence of direct evidence against Mr. E, the only of the five whom argued that “he had nothing to do with the paraphernalia found in the chalet and that he did not perform any type of autologous or other blood manipulation while he was at the 2002 Winter Games[13], the Panel issued a warning only.[14]

In Collins[15], a case deriving from the BALCO scandal, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) relied on a cache of emails where Collins admitted to using prohibited substances (both EPO and the hybrid testosterone “cream” developed by BALCO)[16], as well as test results of independent blood and urine tests arranged by BALCO.[17] Following expert testimony, the Panel found beyond a reasonable doubt (as was required by the relevant IAAF Rules) that her blood samples demonstrated EPO use in 2002 and 2003[18] and that her urine samples demonstrated “a pattern of testosterone and epitestosterone levels that can only be explained by the illegal use of BALCO’s cream”.[19]

post WADA Code cases

In Gaines[20] and Montgomery[21], two further BALCO cases heard simultaneously, following argument on the appropriate standard, the Panels stated: (emphasis added)

From this perspective, and in view of the nature and gravity of the allegations at issue in these proceedings, there is no practical distinction between the standards of proof advocated by USADA and the Respondents. It makes little, if indeed any, difference whether a “beyond reasonable doubt” or “comfortable satisfaction” standard is applied to determine the claims against the Respondents. This will become all the more manifest in due course, when the Panel renders its awards on the merits of the USADA’s claims. Either way, USADA bears the burden of proving, by strong evidence commensurate with the serious claims it makes, that the Respondents committed the doping offences in question”.[22]

Similar to Collins, the USADA relied on a multitude of testimonial, documentary and scientific evidence to allege use of a prohibited substance. However, the Panel ultimately decided that admissions about their use of the infamous “Cream” developed by BALCO to their ex-teammate Kelli White, was “sufficient in and out of itself[23] to comfortably satisfy themselves of the athletes’ guilt.

In Hamilton[24], the Panel cited the discussion of the appropriate standard referred to in Gaines and Montgomery but did not explicitly apply it.[25] After upholding the reliability and validity of the homologous transfusion test of Hamilton’s blood samples, the Panel relied upon these test results to be comfortably satisfied that Hamilton had used a prohibited method.[26] A similar approach was undertaken by the Panel in Pechstein[27] to find that %retics peaks in her blood sample of February 2009 were abnormal and that accordingly she had used a prohibited method.

In the Cyprus case[28], WADA and FIFA appealed a decision of the Cyprus Football Association (CFA). Prior to a number of league matches, a club coach administered two pills (which he had independently sourced) to the starting line-up, claiming them to be caffeine pills and/or vitamins.[29] Two players subsequently recorded an adverse analytical finding for a prohibited substance, while five others who did not test positive admitted to investigators that they had also used the pills. Only the two players and the coach were sanctioned by the CFA. WADA alleged that the CFA had erroneously failed to sanction the five players. The Panel was not comfortably satisfied of this conclusion:

199. The Panel notes, in fact, that there is no evidence that the actual pills individually used by each of the Other Players contained a prohibited substance. Indeed some players took the pills, were subsequently tested and there was no adverse analytical finding.

200. No clear cut evidence was brought to show that…the pills administered…were “plain steroids” and not “caffeine pills” contaminated by steroids”.[30]

The most famous case in this class, albeit never reviewed by an arbitration panel, was Armstrong.[31] The USADA relied on witness testimony which provided direct evidence of Armstrong using prohibited substances or prohibited methods during the 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 Tour de France races. The USADA also utilised financial records linking Armstrong to the disgraced sports doctor, Dr. Michele Ferrari, as well as undertaking retesting of old samples which purportedly demonstrated EPO use at the 1999 Tour de France, and provided a “compelling argument consistent with blood doping” at the 2010 Tour de France.


Two overriding conclusions can be drawn.

The first is that there is no definitive answer to the question of what evidence shall be presented to prove a non-positive analytical “use” case.[32] As stated by the Panels in Gaines and Montgomery:

[d]oping offences can be proved by a variety of means; and this is nowhere more true than in “non-analytical positive” cases such as the present”.[33]

The second is that the standard of proof is significantly closer to the criminal than the civil standard. Indeed, in Gaines and Montgomery, the Panels could draw no distinction between beyond a reasonable doubt and comfortable satisfaction, taking into account the allegations raised and the sanctions requested. This elevated standard becomes clear in those matters which relied solely upon circumstantial as opposed to direct evidence.

In French and the Cyprus case, the Panels held that admissions could be relied upon only where there was unambiguous evidence that the substance used either was or contained a prohibited substance. Thus, a label on supplement packaging which lists a prohibited substance as an ingredient, or the ingestion of a pill taken from the same batch as one ingested by a teammate who subsequently tests positive, are not enough on their own to comfortably satisfy a Panel that a used substance was a prohibited substance.

Effectively, the cases require the party bearing the evidentiary burden to prove that the used substance or method was without doubt the substance or method alleged; in other words, the highest possible standard of ‘comfortable satisfaction’. Even in Pechstein, where the Panel emphatically rejected the Appellant’s request to apply a higher than normal standard of proof and stated that it would apply the “normal comfortable satisfaction standard”,[34] the Panel still blurred the lines between the two after systematically reviewing and rejecting each of the Appellant’s argument, leaving little doubt in its own mind that the use of a prohibited method was the only possible reason for the blood abnormalities.

To meet this standard, the cases articulate that only direct evidence should be adduced. This includes: admitting to using a proven prohibited substance or prohibited method; scientific evidence of which no credible explanation other than the use of a prohibited substance or prohibited method is possible; scientific evidence which demonstrates that a substance used is a prohibited substance; witness observations of use; and witness testimony of direct admissions.

One further conclusion can be drawn: WADA, on the basis of its current evidence, is unlikely to overturn the Decision. The inherited ASADA case was wholly circumstantial. It did not contain direct, incontrovertible evidence from any of the classes seen in the previous cases. Its key witnesses chose not to testify, nor could they be compelled under Australian law, and nor is it likely that they can be compelled under Swiss law to attend at the CAS.[35] As such, WADA’s prospects of success hinge upon its ability to adduce new and direct evidence of the use of TB4 by the players. 

Will R57.3 of the CAS Code prevent WADA from adducing new and direct evidence?

R57 of the CAS Code provides that a Panel in the appeal arbitration division has “full power to review the facts and the law”. Appeals are heard de novo and any procedural fairness issues deriving from the first-instance are thus automatically cured. This interpretation has been upheld in numerous Awards and the Swiss Federal Tribunal.[36]

R57.3 of the CAS Code, introduced in 2013, provides one limitation: “[t]he Panel has the discretion to exclude evidence presented by the parties if it was available to them or could reasonably have been discovered by them before the challenged decision was rendered”. This is consistent with Swiss procedural law in that a document can only be adduced, at an appellate hearing, if it did not exist at the time of the first instance hearing or hearings or was not in the possession of the appellant at the time.[37]

According to Rigozzi et al, in appeals against decisions rendered by sports-governing bodies, the scope of R57.3 should extend only to those cases “where the adducing of pre-existing evidence amounts to abusive or otherwise unacceptable procedural conduct by a party”.[38]

Mavromatis characterises de novo review as “not only desirable, but also necessary for a number of reasons, to the extent that the previous instance is not an independent arbitral tribunal but the internal body of a sports federation”.[39] As such, R57.3 should be interpreted “as not to circumvent the core principle of the Panel’s full power of review[40].

In two recent Awards, the Panels held that this discretion should be exercised with caution, in situations where a party may have engaged in abusive procedural behaviour or in any other circumstances where the Panel might, in its discretion, consider it either unfair or inappropriate to admit new evidence.[41]

In SC FC Sportul Studentesc SA[42], the Sole Arbitrator excluded the principal evidence supporting the appeal as he was not provided any satisfactory explanation why it could not be submitted or adduced during the two sports-governing body proceedings.[43]

Hence, it is only in rare cases that the CAS limits its power of full review. Thus, as long as new evidence adduced by WADA is neither abusive nor can be construed as unacceptable procedural conduct, it is highly unlikely to be excluded. Levy has suggested that such exclusions may give rise to an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal due to the denial of the right to be heard.[44] In any event, WADA was not a party at first instance, so it remains questionable whether R57.3 may even be utilised by the players. 


The biggest soap opera in the history of Australian sport will come to a conclusion some time prior to the 2016 AFL season. At the time of publishing, the CAS has recently announced the hearing timeline.

Media reports have recently suggested that WADA ordered retesting of samples obtained from the players in 2011-2012, resulting in two samples demonstrating abnormally high levels of TB4. As set out above, the previous cases suggest that only this type of direct evidence will be able to convince a Panel to the requisite standard. The challenge for WADA, given the length of the ASADA investigation, is to find it.

An independent report commissioned by Essendon published in May 2013, graphically described its supplements programme as “a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the Club in the period under review”. It is not disputed that the players must ultimately take full responsibility for each substance that presents in their body.

However, at the same time, the gross inadequacies in the governance at Essendon during the period – failures in documentation and record keeping, lack of (proper) informed consent for the players, uncertainty in the supplements administrated, and the creation of an unsafe work environment, among others – for which the club was already heavily sanctioned and which gave rise to the investigation in the first place, ironically appears to be the main obstacle preventing WADA from discharging its burden of proof.

[1] AFL Anti-Doping Code (2010 Edition), Article 15.1.

[2] AFL Anti-Doping Code (2010 Edition), Article 15.1.

[3] ASADA v 34 Players and One Support Person [2014] VSC 635. 

[4] See e.g. Richard H McLaren, An Overview of Non-Analytical Positive & Circumstantial Evidence Cases in Sports, 16 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 193 (2006).

[5] See e.g. N., J., Y., W. v Federation Internationale de Natation CAS 98/208.

[6] Ibid.

[7] SFT, 5P83/1999, para. 3.d.

[8] Michael Straubel, Enhancing the Performance of the Doping Court: How the Court of Arbitration for Sport Can Do Its Job Better, 36 Loy. U. Chi. L. J. 1203 (2005), at 1270.

[9] Mark French vs Australian Sports Commission and Cycling Australia, CAS 2004/A/651.

[10] French at 58.

[11] French at 51.

[12] A., B., C., D. & E. v International Olympic Committee, CAS 2002/A/389, 390, 391, 392, 393.

[13] A., B., C., D. & E. v IOC at 53.

[14] A., B., C., D. & E. v IOC at 53.

[15] United States Anti-Doping Agency vs Michelle Collins, AAA No. 30 190 00658 04.

[16] Collins at 1.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4.

[17] Collins at 1.3, 4.11 – 4.24.

[18] Collins at 4.16.

[19] Collins at 4.17.

[20] United States Anti-Doping Agency vs Chryste Gaines, CAS 2004/O/649.

[21] United States Anti-Doping Agency vs Tim Montgomery, CAS 2004/O/645

[22] Gaines at 36, Montgomery at 36.

[23] Gaines at 52, Montgomery at 50.

[24]Tyler Hamilton vs United States Anti-Doping Agency and Union Cycliste International, CAS 2005/A/884.

[25] Hamilton at 47.

[26] Hamilton at 91.

[27] Claudia Pechstein vs International Skating Union, CAS 2009/A/1912.

[28] World Anti-Doping Agency and Federazione International de Football Association v Cyprus Football Association, Carlos Marques, Leonel Medeiros, Edward Eranosian, Angelos Efthymiou, Yiannis Sfakianakis, Dmytro Mykhailenko, Samir Bengeloun, Bernardo Vasconcelos, CAS 2009/A/1817.

[29] WADA & FIFA v CFA et al at 14.

[30] WADA & FIFA v CFA et al at 198-200.

[31] United States Anti-Doping Agency vs Lance Armstrong, Reasoned decision of the USADA on disqualification and eligibility (10 October 2012).

[32] McLaren at 212.

[33] Gaines at 45, Montgomery at 45.

[34] Pechstein at 123-126.

[35] See this piece for an excellent analysis of the operation of the powers of compulsion within the Swiss Public International Law Act vis-à-vis Australian law: <>.

[36] see FC Sion v Federation Internationale de Football Association & Al-Ahly Sporting Club, CAS 2009/A/1880; E v Federation Internationale de Football Association, CAS 2009/A/1881; Eintracht Braunschweig GmbH & Co. KG a. A. v. Olympiakos FC CAS 2012/A/2836; SFT 4A_386/2010

[37] Article 317 of the Swiss Civil Procedure Code.

[38] Antonio Rigozzi /Erika Hassler / Brianna Quin, The 2011, 2012 and 2013 revisions to the Code of Sports-related Arbitration, in: Jusletter 3 juin 2013, at 14.

[39] Despina Mavromatis, The Panel’s Right to Exclude Evidence Based on Article R57 Para. 3 CAS Code: a Limit to CAS’ Full Power of Review, in CAS Bulletin 1/2014, at 56.

[40] Mavromatis at 56.

[41] See Zamalek Sporting Club vs Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club, CAS 2014/A/3518; MFK Dubnica v FC Parma, CAS 2014/A/3486.

[42] SC FC Sportul Studentesc SA v Romanian Football Federation & several players, CAS 2013/A/3286-3294.

[43] SC FC Sportul Studentesc SA at 66-70.

[44] Roy Levy, The new CAS rules – what you need to know, at <>.

Comments (1) -

  • sam ciccarello

    9/16/2015 3:46:05 AM |

    Very well written and presented.

    Consider your conclusion to be rational and compelling.

    Look forward to your follow up blog when the Decision is made public.

Comments are closed