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

Interview with Wil van Megen (Legal Director of FIFPro) on FIFPro’s EU Competition Law complaint against the FIFA Transfer System

Editor’s note
Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government in labour issues.

Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe. More...

The Scala reform proposals for FIFA: Old wine in new bottles?

Rien ne va plus at FIFA. The news that FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke was put on leave and released from his duties has been quickly overtaken by the opening of a criminal investigation targeting both Blatter and Platini.

With FIFA hopping from one scandal to the next, one tends to disregard the fact that it has been attempting (or rather pretending) to improve the governance of the organisation for some years now. In previous blogs (here and here), we discussed the so-called ‘FIFA Governance Reform Project’, a project carried out by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth of the Basel Institute on Governance. Their third and final report, published on 22 April 2014, listed a set of achievements made by FIFA in the area of good governance since 2011, such as establishing an Audit and Compliance Committee (A&C). However, the report also indicated the reform proposals that FIFA had not met. These proposals included the introduction of term limits for specific FIFA officials (e.g. the President) as well as introducing an integrity review procedure for all the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and the Standing Committees. More...

Why the CAS #LetDuteeRun: the Proportionality of the Regulation of Hyperandrogenism in Athletics by Piotr Drabik

Editor's note
Piotr is an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


On 24 July the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued its decision in the proceedings brought by the Indian athlete Ms. Dutee Chand against the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in which she challenged the validity of the IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Female with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition (Regulations). The Regulations were established in 2011 as a response to the controversies surrounding South African athlete Caster Semenya (see e.g. here, here, and here), and for the purpose of safeguarding fairness in sport by prohibiting women with hyperandrogenism, i.e. those with excessive levels of endogenous (naturally occurring) testosterone, from competing in women athletics competitions. Owing to the subject-matter that the Regulations cover, the case before the CAS generated complex legal, scientific and ethical questions. The following case note thus aims at explaining how the Panel addressed the issues raised by the Indian athlete. It follows a previous blog we published in December 2014 that analysed the arguments raised in favour of Ms. Chand. More...

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. More...

EU Law is not enough: Why FIFA's TPO ban survived its first challenge before the Brussels Court

Star Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont is almost a monopolist as far as high profile EU law and football cases are concerned. This year, besides a mediatised challenge against UEFA’s FFP regulations, he is going after FIFA’s TPO ban on behalf of the Spanish and Portuguese leagues in front of the EU Commission, but also before the Brussels First Instance Court defending the infamous Malta-based football investment firm Doyen Sport. FIFA and UEFA’s archenemy, probably electrified by the 20 years of the Bosman ruling, is emphatically trying to reproduce his world-famous legal prowess. Despite a first spark at a success in the FFP case against UEFA with the Court of first instance of Brussels sending a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), this has proven to be a mirage as the CJEU refused, as foretold, to answer the questions of the Brussels Court, while the provisory measures ordered by the judge have been suspended due to UEFA’s appeal. But, there was still hope, the case against FIFA’s TPO ban, also involving UEFA and the Belgium federation, was pending in front of the same Brussels Court of First Instance, which had proven to be very willing to block UEFA’s FFP regulations. Yet, the final ruling is another disappointment for Dupont (and good news for FIFA). The Court refused to give way to Doyen’s demands for provisional measures and a preliminary reference. The likelihood of a timely Bosman bis repetita is fading away. Fortunately, we got hold of the judgment of the Brussels court and it is certainly of interest to all those eagerly awaiting to know whether FIFA’s TPO ban will be deemed compatible or not with EU law. More...

The New FIFA Intermediaries Regulations under EU Law Fire in Germany. By Tine Misic

I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by.” (Dr. Emmett L. Brown)[1]

Back to the future?

Availing oneself of EU law in the ambit of sports in 1995 must have felt a bit like digging for plutonium, but following the landmark ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Bosman case[2], 20 years later, with all the buzz surrounding several cases where EU law is being used as an efficient ammunition for shelling various sports governing or organising bodies, one may wonder if in 2015 EU law is to be “found in every drug store” and the recent cases (see inter alia Heinz Müller v 1. FSV Mainz 05, Daniel Striani ao v UEFA, Doyen Sports ao v URBSFA, FIFA, UEFA) [3] cannot but invitingly evoke the spirit of 1995.

One of the aforementioned cases that also stands out pertains to the injunction decision[4] issued on 29 April 2015 by the Regional Court (Landesgericht) in Frankfurt am Main (hereinafter: the Court) in the dispute between the intermediary company Firma Rogon Sportmanagement (hereinafter: the claimant) and the German Football Federation (Deutschen Fußball-Bund, DFB), where the claimant challenged the provisions of the newly adopted DFB Regulations on Intermediaries (hereinafter: DFB Regulations)[5] for being incompatible with Articles 101 and 102 TFEU.[6] The Court, by acknowledging the urgency of the matter stemming from the upcoming transfer window and the potential loss of clients, deemed a couple of shells directed at the DFB Regulations to be well-aimed, and granted an injunction due to breach of Article 101 TFEU. More...

Compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part 2: The Heinz Müller case. By Piotr Drabik

The first part of the present blog article provided a general introduction to the compatibility of fixed-term contracts in football with Directive 1999/70/EC[1] (Directive). However, as the Member States of the European Union enjoy a considerable discretion in the implementation of a directive, grasping the impact of the Directive on the world of football would not be possible without considering the national context. The recent ruling of the Arbeitsgericht Mainz (the lowest German labour court; hereinafter the Court) in proceedings brought by a German footballer Heinz Müller provides an important example in this regard. This second part of the blog on the legality of fixed-term contract in football is devoted to presenting and assessing the Court’s decision.

I. Facts and Procedure
Heinz Müller, the main protagonist of this case, was a goalkeeper playing for 1.FSV Mainz 05 a club partaking to the German Bundesliga. More...

Compatibility of Fixed-Term Contracts in Football with Directive 1999/70/EC. Part.1: The General Framework. By Piotr Drabik

On 25 March 2015, the Labour Court of Mainz issued its decision in proceedings brought by a German footballer, Heinz Müller, against his (now former) club 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Mainz 05). The Court sided with the player and ruled that Müller should have been employed by Mainz 05 for an indefinite period following his 2009 three year contract with the club which was subsequently extended in 2011 to run until mid-2014. The judgment was based on national law implementing Directive 1999/70 on fixed-term work[1] (Directive) with the latter being introduced pursuant to art. 155(2) TFEU (ex art. 139(2) TEC). On the basis of this article, European social partners’ may request a framework agreement which they conclude to be implemented on the European Union (EU, Union) level by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission. One of the objectives of the framework agreement,[2] and therefore of the Directive, was to establish a system to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships[3] which lies at the heart of the discussed problem.[4] More...

UEFA’s FFP out in the open: The Dynamo Moscow Case

Ever since UEFA started imposing disciplinary measures to football clubs for not complying with Financial Fair Play’s break-even requirement in 2014, it remained a mystery how UEFA’s disciplinary bodies were enforcing the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play (“FFP”) regulations, what measures it was imposing, and what the justifications were for the imposition of these measures. For over a year, the general public could only take note of the 23 settlement agreements between Europe’s footballing body and the clubs. The evidential obstacle for a proper analysis was that the actual settlements remained confidential, as was stressed in several of our previous Blogs.[1] The information provided by the press releases lacked the necessary information to answer the abovementioned questions.

On 24 April 2015, the UEFA Club Financial Control Body lifted part of the veil by referring FC Dynamo Moscow to the Adjudicatory Body. Finally, the Adjudicatory Body had the opportunity to decide on a “FFP case. The anxiously-awaited Decision was reached by the Adjudicatory Chamber on 19 June and published not long after. Now that the Decision has been made public, a new stage of the debate regarding UEFA’s FFP policy can start.More...

Policing the (in)dependence of National Federations through the prism of the FIFA Statutes. By Tine Misic

…and everything under the sun is in tune,

but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…[1] 

The issue

Ruffling a few feathers, on 30 May 2015 the FIFA Executive Committee rather unsurprisingly, considering the previous warnings,[2] adopted a decision to suspend with immediate effect the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) until such time as PSSI is able to comply with its obligations under Articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA Statutes.[3] Stripping PSSI of its membership rights, the decision results in a prohibition of all Indonesian teams (national or club) from having any international sporting contact. In other words, the decision precludes all Indonesian teams from participating in any competition organised by either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In addition, the suspension of rights also precludes all PSSI members and officials from benefits of any FIFA or AFC development programme, course or training during the term of suspension. This decision coincides with a very recent award by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in this ambit, which shall be discussed further below.[4]More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Regulating the human body in sports: Lessons learned from the Dutee Chand case - by Dr Marjolaine Viret & 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

Regulating the human body in sports: Lessons learned from the Dutee Chand case - by Dr Marjolaine Viret & Emily Wisnosky

Editor's note: Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky are both editors of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog specialized in anti-doping matters, they are also involved in the World Anti-Doping Commentary project funded by the Swiss National Science Fund.


A remarkable aspect of the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was the stream of negative media reports portraying broad-scale public mistrust in sport, with the most prominent topic being the doping scandals in athletics and questions surrounding the participation of Russia.  

A different controversy, but one also directed at the credibility of sports, has exposed a few female Olympians to repeated, and at times rather intrusive, media scrutiny. In June 2016, it was reported that Indian track-and-field athlete Dutee Chand had qualified for the Rio Olympic Games by breaking the national record, thus to become the first Indian athlete to run the 100m at the Olympics since 1980. The attention that Dutee Chand’s qualification attracted within international media, however, was not related only to her outstanding results. It came as part of a medical, ethical and legal controversy that has existed for many years relating to ‘policing’ the male versus female divide in sports. Another athlete who has found herself in the midst of this controversy is South African runner Semenya Caster, whose participation in the Olympics has been the object of much conjecture.

The divide between male and female athletes forms the core of most sports’ competition rules, including athletics. The justification for this basic divide has rarely been questioned as such, but has been a matter for debate when it comes to handling atypical situations on both sides of the ‘dividing line’ ­ such as ‘transgender’ or ‘intersex’ athletes. A category of athletes that has, especially, been viewed as a challenge to the divide is composed of female athletes affected by ‘hyperandrogenism’, a health condition that results in naturally elevated androgen levels, including testosterone levels.

On 24 July 2015, a CAS panel rendered a decision involving Dutee Chand (“Dutee Chand” or “the Athlete”) that has fuelled the ongoing debate about the policies regulating hyperandrogenism in sport. Much has been reported in the media about the case: controversial issues include whether the CAS was the appropriate forum to assess these questions; whether the decision was appropriate, both on the merits and on the procedure; and what the consequences of the CAS award would be, for the parties, for athletics and for the sporting community at large.

Much like the current crisis surrounding doping in sports, the public attention on women with (proven or suspected) hyperandrogenism is driven by a concern that an athlete’s physiology – natural or artificially induced ­ could distort competition, destroying the ‘level playing field’ that supports the Olympic ideal. Both topics are also often brought back to the goal of protecting an athlete’s health. Parallels are further found in the strong reactions both topics evoke, and the steps taken by the regulating authorities to convince the public that everything in their power is being done to preserve a level playing field.

A less obvious but equally important point of comparison can be found in the issues both topics raise concerning the legal validity of decisions made by sports organizations, especially in a science-related context. This blog focuses on those more ‘legal’ aspects, through the prism of the decision of the CAS in the Dutee Chand matter and its legal implications. After touching briefly on the background of the case, we will comment on two aspects of the Chand award with respect to challenges in regulating hyperandrogenism in sport within the confines of the law: First from the viewpoint of a CAS panel called upon to evaluate the validity of a set of regulations, and second from the viewpoint of the sports organizations seeking to both adequately protect fairness in sport and to provide a legally valid (and effective) regulatory solution.[1]

Background of the Case

In 2014, Dutee Chand, an internationally successful, young track-and-field athlete, was provisionally suspended from participation in any athletic events by the Athletics Federation of India (the “AFI”),[2] as a result of a series of medical examinations that suggested her “male hormone” levels were elevated.[3] Dutee Chand filed an appeal against this decision to the CAS, naming both the AFI and the IAAF as respondents. She asked the CAS panel to (i) declare the Hyperandrogenism Regulations invalid, and (ii) overturn the AFI’s decision and clear her to compete. The second request for relief, however, was dropped during the course of the proceeding, thus the award addressed only the issue of the Regulation’s validity.

The IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition (“Hyperandrogenism Regulations” or “the Regulations”) govern the eligibility of female athletes with a condition known as ‘hyperandrogenism’ to participate in the female category of athletic events. Schematically, the Regulations provide that in order to be eligible to participate in the female category, a woman must have androgen levels below the “normal male range,” which is defined as testosterone levels falling below a threshold of 10 nmol/L.[4] An athlete with testosterone levels reported above this threshold may still be allowed to compete if she establishes, by a balance of probabilities, that she “derives no competitive advantage from having androgen levels in the normal male range”.[5] Cases of suspected hyperandrogenism may be investigated according to three levels of medical assessment, potentially including tests targeting physical, laboratory, genetic, imaging, and psychological assessments. Should an athlete be eventually diagnosed with hyperandrogenism, the stakes are high: in order to return to competition, athletes need to undergo medical treatment to reduce their testosterone levels below the ‘admissible’ threshold.

Dutee Chand challenged the Regulations’ validity on several grounds, which the CAS panel considered after addressing the parties’ respective burdens and standards of proof in an initial section. The grounds examined were unlawful discrimination, lack of scientific validity, breach of proportionality, and conflict with the World Anti-Doping Code (“WADC”).

Challenges CAS panels face in assessing the validity of sports regulations

The Chand award formidably illustrates the challenges an arbitration panel faces when asked to reach a conclusion on the ‘legal validity’ of a set of sports regulations, especially when such assessment implies delving into complex scientific issues. Each of these challenges can provide valuable ‘lessons learned’ for future CAS panels confronted with comparable issues.

Reconciling the ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’ facets of the dispute

Ostensibly, the object of the CAS proceedings was for Dutee Chand to be cleared to resume competing as a female athlete, in other words, for the decision rendered against her by the AFI to be set aside[6]. But this ‘concrete’ request for relief was dropped at the hearing, leaving the panel with only the ‘abstract’ question of the Regulation’s validity to consider. It appears that the CAS panel was asked between the lines to render an informal advisory opinion on the legitimacy of the current approach to hyperandrogenism in sport; the formal advisory opinion is an instrument no longer available under the CAS Code.[7]

This left the CAS panel in an uncomfortable position: having to decide on abstract legal questions without the benefit of a concrete set of facts to rely upon. Symptomatically, the background presented in the award regarding the Athlete’s actual situation is tenuous. The award does not even discuss whether Dutee Chand’s testosterone levels actually exceeded the 10nmol/L threshold set in the Hyperandrogenism Regulations[8]. The CAS panel simply conducted its entire assessment under the - unverified - assumption of her being genuinely an athlete with hyperandrogenism within the meaning of the Regulations.

Moreover, real questions of defence strategy relevant to counsel appearing before CAS can be raised here: had Dutee Chand not waived her request for relief directed against the AFI decision, the CAS panel would have been forced to render a final award on her case and could not have left her in the legal limbo in which she is now (see below, on the rendering of an interim rather than a final award).

The CAS has often – explicitly or through the decision of its panels ­shown ambition to act as a harmonising body, an ‘international’ or ‘supreme’ court of sport.[9] From a perspective of sports policy, that may be – depending on the opinion – a desirable objective, or an illegitimate attempt for sports governing bodies to shield their regulations from the judicial review of state courts. From a strictly legal perspective, it is questionable whether CAS panels have at their disposal the means to fulfil this ambition. CAS panels are arbitration tribunals in arbitral proceedings conducted under Swiss arbitration law. As such, they only have the power to rule on a dispute brought before them by two – or more – specific parties, and they can only render decisions on requests for relief that a party has submitted to them, within the framework of the facts put forward by the parties. Approaches such as the one taken in the Chand award should not be encouraged, especially in this odd combination in which a CAS panel would accept to rule on abstract requests for relief that are not directly decisive to the outcome of the dispute.

Allocating the burden of proof to prove or disprove the Regulation’s validity

For reasons that are not readily apparent from the award, the CAS panel separated its assessment of the Regulations’ scientific basis into two limbs: i.) one referred to as an assessment of the ‘scientific validity’ of the Regulations, for which Dutee Chand was said to have accepted the burden of proof, and ii.) one referred to as a justification for the prima facie discrimination and considered part of the proportionality assessment, for which the IAAF was assigned the burden of proof[10]. For both limbs, the CAS panel ended up holding that the party bearing the burden of proof failed to discharge its burden, due to lack of sufficient scientific evidence.

The reasoning of the CAS panels in the award makes it rather obvious that the two limbs are conceptually one and the same: Both assess the question of whether the infringement upon female athletes’ rights entailed by the Regulations could be justified by a sufficiently strong scientific basis. Assigning the burden with respect to the general ‘scientific validity’ to Dutee Chand (i.e. the use of testosterone as a valid marker for purposes of the Regulations) and the burden with respect to another aspect of ‘scientific validity’ (i.e. the threshold set in the Regulations for that marker) to the IAAF (via the proportionality test), as the panel did, created an artificial separation in the legal analysis, by dressing the same issue in two different hats.

From the viewpoint of legal technique, this separation appears questionable and unnecessarily complicated. The assumption, from a viewpoint of judicial policy, is that the separation provided the arbitrators with an argument to both support the general thinking underpinning the Regulations (i.e. the use of testosterone levels as a marker) by considering that it was not without scientific basis, while at the same time finding the Regulations lacked sufficient strength in their modalities (i.e. the extent of the advantage conferred to hyperandrogenic athletes by their testosterone levels) to be upheld.

Differentiating between fact-finding and legal appreciation

Whether sports regulations have a sufficiently strong basis in science does not pertain to the fact-finding process, but to the CAS panel’s appreciation of the legal validity ­ or justification (including proportionality) ­ of those regulations. In this particular set-up, the question of ‘scientific validity’ is thus not strictly speaking one related to the burden of proof, as the Chand award would imply, but reflects which party suffers consequences if a CAS panel is not able to make sense of the scientific state-of-knowledge. The prospect of suffering adverse consequences indirectly provides an incentive for parties to present studies and expert opinions in support of their position, but does not qualify as a burden of proof stricto sensu, which only applies to issues of fact[11].

Nevertheless, the outcome of the CAS panel’s reasoning in the Chand matter appears justified: To the extent that the Hyperandrogenism Regulations represent an infringement on certain athletes’ rights (or, as the award considered it, in cases of discrimination), such infringement or discrimination has to be justified to be considered valid. In the case of the Hyperandrogenism Regulations, the alleged justification was based on the scientific basis behind the mechanics of the regulations. Thus, if no such basis could be shown, the CAS panel was bound to consider the Hyperandrogenism Regulations invalid. The CAS panel, in the particular matter, reached the same outcome by assigning the burden of proof on the issue it ultimately declared decisive to the IAAF, i.e. whether the manner in which testosterone was used as marker in the Regulations (especially the threshold value) could claim a sufficiently solid scientific basis.

Accounting for the role of scientific uncertainty

A truly important message to retain from the CAS award on scientific validity is the crucial role that ‘scientific uncertainty’ bears for the legal rule-making or adjudicative process. ‘Scientific uncertainty’ here refers to situations in which no consensus can be found within the scientific community, in which various expert positions coexist, or in which experts agree that the state-of-knowledge does not allow for a definitive answer. In all cases, the science is ‘unsettled’ in a manner that makes it impossible for the legal actors to extract a clear-cut finding that would suit their purposes. By nature, situations of ‘scientific uncertainty’ are the most likely to lead to legal disputes. CAS panels are frequently confronted with this constellation in doping matters or other science-related disputes brought before them.

The result of the panel’s assessment of the scientific foundations for the Regulations – whether desirable or not, justified or not – was hence utterly predictable. It was pre-determined from the moment the CAS panel decided that the IAAF would have the burden of proof on the very issue that would ultimately prove decisive for the outcome of a dispute. Allocating the burden of proof on a scientific issue amounts to assigning to one party (or one category of party) the risk of scientific uncertainty. Since disputed scientific issues are likely to result in the panel being unable to make up its mind one way or another, thus having to fall back on the burden of proof, the party that carries this risk of scientific uncertainty is almost certain to lose its case.

(Avoiding) reaching a legal conclusion on a highly sensitive issue

At the end of their analysis, the CAS arbitrators reached the conclusion that the IAAF had not discharged its burden of proof and that they were therefore unable to uphold the validity of the Hyperandrogenism Regulations based on the evidence before them[12]. The logical (and legal) consequence would have been for the panel to render a final award in accordance with these conclusions and grant the athlete’s request for relief. However, the panel took a different – and unusual ­ option, of issuing a decision they referred to as “interim award” instead.

One fails to see the rationale for such a decision. The approach may well be pragmatic, since it relieved (at least temporarily) the CAS panel of the need to make a final binding decision on a complex social and political issue, and allowed Dutee Chand to resume competition while at the same time providing a (provisional) framework for international athletic competitions with respect to participation of hyperandrogenic athletes.[13] However, issuing an “interim award” in this matter is not justifiable from the perspective of arbitration law. This is all the more true given that none of the parties appears to have requested the issuing of a preliminary decision in the proceedings, nor even to have contemplated this type of outcome. Its legitimacy under the CAS Code – which is conceived to guarantee an efficient procedural framework on CAS proceedings �� is equally questionable. Moreover, the choice of issuing an ‘interim award’ has far-reaching legal and practical consequences for the dispute that further call into doubt the nature of Dutee Chand’s ‘victory’, including the following:

  • The CAS proceeding number ‘CAS 2014/A/3759’ is not closed. The CAS panel remains formally constituted for the remainder of the two-year period assigned to the IAAF. If the IAAF does not submit further evidence, the CAS panels will need to make a final award taking note of such failure and drawing the consequences thereof, which could then be appealed before the Swiss Supreme Court;
  • The “interim award” can only be appealed to the Swiss Supreme Court on very restrictive grounds under the Swiss Private International Law Act (Article 190, para. 3). Only an appeal for grounds of irregular composition of the tribunal or lack of jurisdiction could be filed, none of which would seem of relevance to the present matter. The other grounds for challenging an arbitral award – in particular the right to be heard or public policy – cannot be raised in an appeal against an interim award. This de facto bars the parties from appealing the award before the elapse of the two-year period; and
  • The award does not acquire a res iudicata effect and cannot be enforced, though it binds the panel itself to its own determinations (as opposed to a mere procedural order).[14] Its effect for other athletes potentially concerned by decisions made under national regulations implemented to reflect the Hyperandrogenism Regulations is thus uncertain. In theory, but for the panel’s expectations that the IAAF will act based on the sport hierarchy, a national federation that was not a party to the dispute could still make a decision against an athlete.

While CAS panels may order further evidentiary measures on their own initiative and request a party to adduce further evidence, the CAS Code certainly does not envisage that a party could be given a period of two years to do so. Rendering an interim award in these circumstances could be considered to amount to a denial of justice, i.e. a refusal by the CAS panel to rule on the request for relief properly submitted to it. The time limit granted unilaterally, to one of the parties only, could also be seen as conflicting with equality of the parties.[15] Should the IAAF return with additional evidence during the two-year period, would Dutee Chand also be granted an equivalent time limit to respond to the evidence?

Challenges sports organisations face in navigating the interface between law and science

The debate surrounding the definition of male and female is a complex one, not only in sport but in various domains of society. This means that a sports organisation’s task of making policy decisions that adequately account for these complexities is far from straightforward.

Unlike former policies in sport, the manner in which the IAAF – and other sports federations based on the policy of the IOC – set out to deal with hyperandrogenism as of 2012 does not formally aim at defining an athlete’s sex. Hence, it does not represent a ‘gender or sex testing’ process stricto sensu. Instead, the CAS panel in the Dutee Chand case acknowledged that whether a person is to be considered ‘female’ from the viewpoint of participation in athletics relies on the criterion of whether a person is a female as a matter of law[16]. The Hyperandrogenism Regulations do not – at least not from a legal viewpoint ­ purport to decide whether someone is female or not. Ironically, this shift in approach that was to take away from sports authorities the controversial power to assign a ‘gender’ to an individual for purposes of taking part in its competitions is precisely what has brought those authorities into the dilemma of having to introduce corrective factors in the name of a level playing field.

Indeed, the Regulations seek to police a divide based on an issue of law (whether someone is a female ‘as a matter of law’) through a corrective factor that relies on a biological parameter, which is an issue of fact (the person’s level of testosterone); an approach that is bound to lead to a sense of unfairness in borderline situations. Undoubtedly, one major flaw in the system was that the corrective factor had the effect of excluding athletes from the category into which they fit as a matter of law, without offering them the option to compete in the category in which the corrective factor would place them. The IOC Medical & Scientific Commission statement subsequently issued (see below, in the concluding remarks) encourages a solution whereby legally female athletes who fail to meet the requirements of Hyperandrogenism Regulations would be authorized to compete in the male category. This solution would at least have the merits of removing this blatant inconsistency of the system. However, one can legitimately wonder if, de facto, it would not have the same effect of excluding hyperandrogenic women from elite competition entirely.

To entirely reframe the approach to sex categories in sport – without the mixture of legal and biological corrective factors chosen in the Hyperandrogenism Regulations – would suppose one of the following:

  1. redefining the definition of ‘sex’ for purposes of sports categories based only on biological criteria, i.e. the level of testosterone or other biological factors deemed appropriate,
  2. abandoning the use of corrective factors, and referring to an individual’s sex exclusively as a matter of law, or
  3. abandoning any form of sports category related to sex and/or gender altogether.

It seems predictable that any of these options would imply some sort of compromise and entail new legal challenges. In particular, it is important to note that even if one should simply abandon any regulation on hyperandrogenism (or, more generally, on intersex matters), the question of how to legally define a ‘female’ would remain. In particular, the CAS panel in the Chand matter noted that whether someone is a male or female “is a matter of law”[17]. This immediately raises a follow-up question, namely: “what law?”. And, of equal importance, how does the applicable law approach this question? Options could range from self-identification to reliance on a complex set of scientific criteria, with each solution bringing its own challenges. Relying exclusively, as has been suggested[18], on the manner in which a person was raised and/or perceives him-/herself within society might prove difficult to crystallize into a firm legal criterion.

Even as sports regulations strives towards fairness and removing barriers to ‘pure’ competition, it must be recognized that the best that sports organizations can aim for in this context is to strike a reasonable balance between seeking a level playing field and celebrating natural advantages. On a deeper level, it also supposes a discussion as to how lawyers can and/or may make decisions that will profoundly affect individuals when science appears unable to provide the data needed to make sound legal choices.


Concluding remarks

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Chand matter ­ as revealed by its aftermath ­ is the limited impact a CAS award addressing abstract legal issues can exert in practice.

The Chand award did not end the hyperandrogenism debate. In November 2015 – over four months after the Chand award was published ­ the IOC Medical & Scientific Commission, after holding a Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism, reaffirmed its position by insisting on the need to have rules in place “for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition”. The statement also encourages the IAAF, with support of other sports organizations, “to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules”. The IOC’s reaction to the interim award rendered shows that little progress was made in resolving the dispute over the validity of the Hyperandrogenism Regulations. As an only sign of a shift in its position, the statement recommends that “to avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the Athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition”.[19] The new IOC position, which in effect represents a step towards considering the testosterone threshold as the only decisive criterion for determining the boundary between male and female athletes, immediately triggered critical reactions – both as to the modalities of its adoption and as to its contents – on part of circles close to Dutee Chand’s defence and opposed to regulations on hyperandrogenism.

Thus, the CAS award does not seem to have altered either camp’s position. This may be in part a side effect of the panel’s decision to opt for an interim award, but also demonstrates more generally the limitations on the power of law, regulatory bodies and judicial authorities to resolve disputes of such scientific and ethical dimension.

[1] For a more detailed analysis of the Chand award, see M Viret and E Wisnosky, Controlling “Femaleness” in Sports: Regulatory challenges at the intersection of health, performance and identity, in A Duval and A Rigozzi, eds., Yearbook of International Sports Arbitration, to be published.

[2] CAS 2014/A/3759, Dutee Chand v. AFI & IAAF, 24 July [27]­[28]. As reported in the award, the text of the Decision Letter read in relevant part: “Based on your medical reports received from Sports Authority of India and a copy of the same has already been handed over to you by SAI in person, you are hereby provisionally stopped from participation in any Competition in athletics with immediate effect.

To be eligible for participation, you are further advised to follow the annexed IAAF guidelines”. [27]. Ms. Chand stated that the letter incorrectly enclosed the IAAF Sex Reassignment Regulations rather than the Hyperandrogenism Regulations [28].

[4] Hyperandrogenism Regulations, art. 6.5(i).

[5] Hyperandrogenism Regulations, art. 6.5(ii).

[6] Dutee Chand initially submitted two requests for relief, namely that a.) “[T]he Hyperandrogenism Regulation[s] be declared invalid and void; and, b.)[T]he Decision Letter [note: rendered by the AFI against Ms. Chand] be set aside and she be declared eligible to compete (Chand award at [104]).

[7] CAS’ consultation proceedings were abrogated in the 2012 review of the CAS Code.

[8] Chand award at [36]

[9] “The ‘Digest of CAS Awards 1986-1998’ recorded the emergence of a lex sportiva through the judicial decisions of the CAS. It is true that one of the interests of this court is to develop a jurisprudence that can be used as a reference by all the actors of world sport, thereby encouraging the harmonisation of the judicial rules and principles applied within the sports world.” (CAS Digest II, Reeb, p. xxix).

[10] A detailed analysis of the CAS panel’s reasoning can be found in Viret and Wisnosky 2016.

[11] For more details, see Viret and Wisnosky 2016, on the lack of clear distinction between issues of fact (which parties can agree upon) and issues of law, such as the burden and standard of proof and scientific validity (which is for a hearing panel to decide) in the Chand award.

[12] Chand award at [536].

[13] J Paulsson, Assessing the Usefulness and Legitimacy of CAS, SchiedsVZ 2015, pp. 263-269, p. 269.

[14] G Kaufmann-Kohler and A Rigozzi, International Arbitration: Law and Practice in Switzerland, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2015, paras 7.105-7.106.

[15] See Chand award at [442]. In particular, the Athlete accepted the burden of proof with respect to the “issue of scientific basis” of the Hyperandrogenism Regulations, a burden that the CAS panel considered had equally not been discharged.

[16] Chand award at [510]

[17] Chand award at [510].

[18] See e.g. M Genel, J L Simpson and A de la Chapelle, The Olympic Games and Athletic Sex Assignment, Journal of the American Medical Association, Published online August 04, 2016.

[19] IOC (2015) IOC Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism November 2015

Comments are closed