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

Balancing Athletes’ Interests and The Olympic Partner Programme: the Bundeskartellamt’s Rule 40 Decision - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.

 

1        Introduction

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), after many years of ineffective pushback (see here, here and here) over bye law 3 of rule 40[1] of the Olympic Charter (OC), which restricts the ability of athletes and their entourage to advertise themselves during the ‘blackout’ period’[2] (also known as the ‘frozen period’) of the Olympic Games, may have been gifted a silver bullet to address a major criticism of its rules. This (potentially) magic formula was handed down in a relatively recent decision of the Bundeskartellamt, the German competition law authority, which elucidated how restrictions to athletes’ advertisements during the frozen period may be scrutinized under EU competition law. The following blog begins by explaining the historical and economic context of rule 40 followed by the facts that led to the decision of the Bundeskartellamt. With this background, the decision of the Bundeskartellamt is analyzed to show to what extent it may serve as a model for EU competition law authorities. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – November and December 2019- By Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 

 

The Headlines

WADA Conference and the Adoption of 2021 WADA Code Amid Calls for Reform

On November 5-7, WADA held its Fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport where it faced a busy schedule, including the adoption of the revised 2021 World Anti-Doping Code and the election of a new WADA President and Vice-President by the Foundation Board. Concerning the latter, Witold Bańka, Poland’s Minister of Sport and Tourism, was elected as WADA President and Yang Yang, a former Chinese speed skater, elected as Vice-President, replacing Sir Craig Reedie and Linda Helleland respectively.  As Helleland leaves her position, she has expressed some strong views on the state of sport governance, particularly that ‘there is an absence of good governance, openness and independence in the highest levels of international sports’. Helleland was not the only one to recently voice governance concerns, as Rob Koehler, Director General of Global Athlete, also called for a ‘wholesale structural change at WADA’, which includes giving ‘independent’ athletes a vote in WADA’s Foundation Board, ensuring a greater ‘separation of powers’ and ensuring greater protection of athletes’ rights.

In the midst of the calls for reform, the amended 2021 WADA Code and the amended International Standards were also adopted after a two year, three stage code review process. Furthermore, a major milestone in athletes’ rights was achieved with the adoption of the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Acts (separate from the WADA Code), which enumerates certain basic rights to help ‘ensure that Athlete rights within anti-doping are clearly set out, accessible, and universally applicable’. On the other hand, the Act ‘is not a legal document’, which clearly circumscribes some of the potential effects the Act may have. Nonetheless, athlete representative groups have ‘cautiously welcomed’ some of the changes brought by the 2021 WADA Code, such as the ‘modified sanctions for substances of abuse violations’.

Sung Yang’s Historical Public Hearing at the CAS

After much anticipation, the second public hearing in CAS history occurred on November 15 in Montreux, Switzerland in the Sun Yang case (details of this case were discussed in August and September’s monthly report), which was livestreamed and can be seen in its totality in four different parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). This was an extremely unique opportunity, which hopefully will become a more common occurrence, to see just how CAS hearings are conducted and perhaps get a taste of some of the logistical issues that can emerge during live oral hearings. One of these problems, accurate translations, rapidly became apparent as soon as Sun Yang sat in the witness chair to give his opening statements. The translators in the box seemed to struggle to provide an intelligible English interpretation of Sun Yang and other witnesses’ statements, while Sun Yang also seemingly had trouble understanding the translated questions being posed to him. The situation degenerated to such an extent that ultimately one of WADA’s officials was called to replace the translators. However, the translation drama did not end there, since during Sun Yang’s closing statements an almost seemingly random person from the public appeared next to Sun Yang who claimed to have been requested from Sun Yang’s team to ‘facilitate’ the translation. Franco Frattini, president of the panel, questioned the identity of the ‘facilitator’ and explained that one could not just simply appear before the court without notice. Interestingly, Sun Yang’s legal team also rapidly intervened claiming that it had not been made of aware of the inclusion of the supporting translator, further complicating the matter. In the end, Sun Yang concluded his statements with the translation from the WADA official.

While it was Sun Yang’s legal team that had provided the original translators in the box, it still raises the question as to how translation at CAS could be improved to ensure a certain standard of translators. After all, quality translation is critical to the parties’ right to be heard under Article 6 (e) ECHR. Regardless, in the end, neither parties made an objection that their right to be heard was violated.

Russian Doping Saga Continues: WADA Compliance Review Committee Recommends Strong Sanctions

As was already discussed in August and September’s monthly report, WADA uncovered numerous inconsistencies concerning data taken from the Moscow Laboratory. After further investigation, WADA’s Compliance Review Committee has recommended that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) be found non-compliant with the WADA Code. Accompanying the recommendation, the Compliance Review Committee also suggested several sanctions, which include prohibiting Russian athletes from participating in major events like the Olympic Games and ‘any World Championships organized or sanctioned by any Signatory’ for the next four years unless they may ‘dmonstrate that they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance’. It would also see an embargo on events hosted in Russia during the same period. However, these sanctions did not go far enough for some, like Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA, who wishes to prevent a repeat of Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 ‘in which a secretly-managed process permitting Russians to compete – did not work’. On the other hand, the IOC has advocated for a softer, individual based approach that pursues ‘the rules of natural justice and respect human rights’. In the midst of these developments, the Athletics Integrity Unit also decided to charge several members of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), including its President Dmitry Shlyakhtin, after a 15 month investigation for ‘tampering and complicity’ concerning a Russian athlete’s whereabouts violations.

Following many calls for strong consequences, the WADA Executive Committee met on December 9th and adopted the recommendations of the Compliance Review Committee. Athlete representatives have expressed their disappointment with the sanctions, calling the decision ‘spineless’ since it did not pursue a complete ban on Russian participation at events such as Euro 2020 and the 2020 Olympics. At this point, RUSADA has sent notice to WADA that it will be disputing the decision of WADA’s Executive Committee’s decision at the CAS.More...


Is UCI the new ISU? Analysing Velon’s Competition Law Complaint to the European Commission - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a fourth year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.

 

1.     Introduction

The UCI may soon have to navigate treacherous legal waters after being the subject of two competition law based complaints (see here and here) to the European Commission in less than a month over rule changes and decisions made over the past year. One of these complaints stems from Velon, a private limited company owned by 11 out of the 18 World Tour Teams,[1] and the other comes from the Lega del Ciclismo Professionistico, an entity based in Italy representing an amalgamation of stakeholders in Italian professional cycling. While each of the complaints differ on the actual substance, the essence is the same: both are challenging the way the UCI exercises its regulatory power over cycling because of a growing sense that the UCI is impeding the development of cycling as a sport. Albeit in different ways: Velon sees the UCI infringing on its ability to introduce new race structures and technologies; the Lega del Ciclismo Professionistico believes the UCI is cutting opportunities for semi-professional cycling teams, the middle ground between the World Tour Teams and the amateur teams.

While some of the details remain vague, this blog will aim to unpack part of the claims made by Velon in light of previous case law from both the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to give a preliminary overview of the main legal issues at stake and some of the potential outcomes of the complaint. First, it will be crucial to understand just who/what Velon is before analyzing the substance of Velon’s complaint. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2019 by Thomas Terraz

Editor's note: This report compiles the most relevant legal news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. 


The Headlines

International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) Conference 2019

The T.M.C. Asser Institute and the Asser International Sports Law Centre held the third International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) Conference on October 24-25. The Conference created a forum for academics and practitioners to discuss, debate and share knowledge on the latest developments of sports law. It featured six uniquely themed panels, which included topics such as ‘Transfer systems in international sports’ and ‘Revisiting the (in)dependence and transparency of the CAS’ to ‘The future of sports: sports law of the future’. The ISLJ Conference was also honored to have two exceptional keynote speakers: Moya Dodd and Ulrich Haas. To kick off the conference, Moya Dodd shared her experiences from an athlete’s perspective in the various boardrooms of FIFA. The second day was then launched by Ulrich Haas, who gave an incredibly thorough and insightful lecture on the importance, function and legal basis of association tribunals in international sport. For a detailed overview of this year’s ISLJ Conference, click here for the official conference report.

The Asser International Sports Law Centre was delighted to have been able to host another great edition of the ISLJ Conference and is thankful to all the participants and speakers who made this edition such a success.

Moving towards greater transparency: Launch of FIFA’s Legal Portal

On October 31, FIFA announced that it was introducing a new legal portal on its website that will give greater access to numerous documents that previously were kept private. FIFA explains that this is in order to help increase its transparency, which was one of the key ‘Guiding Principles’ highlighted in FIFA 2.0: The Vision for the Future released in 2016. This development comes as many sport governing bodies face increasing criticism for the opacity of its judicial bodies’ decisions, which can have tremendous economic and societal impacts. The newly available documents will include: ‘decisions rendered on the merits by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and the FIFA Appeal Committee (notified as of 1 January 2019); decisions rendered on the merits by the FIFA Ethics Committee (notified since 1 January 2019); decisions rendered on the merits by the FIFA Players’ Status Committee and the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber; non-confidential CAS awards in proceedings to which FIFA is a party (notified since 1 January 2019); list of CAS arbitrators proposed by FIFA for appointment by ICAS, and the number of times they have been nominated in CAS proceedings’. The list of decisions from all the aforementioned bodies are updated every four months, according to their respective webpages. However, time will ultimately tell how consistently decisions are published. Nevertheless, this move is a major milestone in FIFA’s journey towards increasing its transparency.

Hong Kong Protests, Human Rights and (e)Sports Law: The Blizzard and NBA controversies

Both Blizzard, a major video game developer, and the NBA received a flurry of criticism for their responses to persons expressing support for the Hong Kong protests over the past month. On October 8, Blizzard sanctioned Blitzchung, a professional Hearthstone player who expressed support of the Hong Kong protest during a post-match interview, by eliminating the prize money he had won and suspending him for one year from any Hearthstone tournament. Additionally, Blizzard will cease to work with the casters who conducted the interview. With mounting disapproval over the sanctions,  J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard, restored the prize money and reduced the period of ineligibility to 6 months.

The NBA controversy started when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted his support for the protests in Hong Kong. The tweet garnered much attention, especially in China where it received a lot of backlash, including an announcement from CCTV, the official state broadcaster in China, that it was suspending all broadcasts of the NBA preseason games. In attempts to appease its Chinese audience, which is a highly profitable market for the NBA, Morey deleted the tweet and posted an apology, and the NBA responded by saying that the initial tweet was ‘regrettable’. Many scolded these actions and accused the NBA of censorship to which the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, responded that the NBA remains committed to freedom of expression.

Both cases highlighted how (e)sport organizations may be faced with competing interests to either guarantee greater protection of human rights or to pursue interests that perhaps have certain financial motivations. More...


ISLJ International Sports Law Conference 2019 - Conference Report - By Thomas Terraz

On October 24th and 25th 2019, the T.M.C. Asser Institute and the International Sports Law Centre hosted the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) Conference for a third year in a row, bringing together a group of academics and practitioners from around the world. This year’s conference celebrated the 20th year of the International Sports Law Journal, which was originally started by Robert Siekmann. Over the past 20 years, the ISLJ has aimed to be a truly international journal that addresses global topics in sports law while keeping the highest academic standards.

With this background, the conference facilitated discussions and exchanges over six differently themed panels on international sports law’s most pertinent issues and gave participants wide opportunities to engage with one another. Additionally, this year’s edition also had the great honor of hosting two distinguished keynote speakers, Moya Dodd and Ulrich Haas, who were able to share their wealth of experience and knowledge with the conference participants.

The following report aims to give an overview of the ISLJ Conference 2019 to extract and underline the fundamental ideas raised by the different speakers.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – August and September 2019 - By Thomas Terraz

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

Another Russian Doping Crisis? Inconsistencies Uncovered in the Data from the Moscow Lab

Storm clouds are brewing once more in the Russian Doping Saga, after several inconsistencies were uncovered by WADA from data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory. More specifically, a certain number of positive tests had been removed from the data WADA retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory compared to the one received from the original whistleblower. WADA launched a formal compliance procedure on 23 September, giving three weeks for Russian authorities to respond and provide their explanations. WADA’s Compliance Review Committee is set to meet on 23 October in order to determine whether to recommend declaring Russia non-compliant.

Russian authorities are not the only ones now facing questions in light of these new revelations. Criticism of WADA’s decision to declare Russia compliant back in September 2018 have been reignited by stakeholders. That original decision had been vehemently criticized (see also Edwin Moses’ response), particularly by athlete representative groups.

The fallout of these data discrepancies may be far reaching if Russian authorities are unable to provide a satisfying response. There are already whispers of another impending Olympic Games ban and the possibility of a ban extending to other sports signed to the WADA Code. In the meantime, the IAAF has already confirmed that the Russian Athletes would compete as ‘authorised neutral athletes’ at the World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar.

Legal Challenges Ahead to Changes to the FIFA Football Transfer Market

FIFA is set to make amendments to its player transfer market that take aim at setting new boundaries for football agents. These changes will prohibit individuals from representing both the buying and selling club in the same transaction and set new limits on agent commissions (3 percent for the buying club and player representative and 10 percent for the selling team). FIFA is already in the process of creating a central clearinghouse through which all transfer payments would have to pass through, including agent commissions. FIFA will be making a final decision on these proposed changes at the FIFA Council meeting on 24 October.

If these proposed changes are confirmed, they will almost certainly be challenged in court. The British trade organization representing football agents, Association of Football Agents, has already begun its preparations for a costly legal battle by sending a plea to its members for donations. It claims that it had not been properly consulted by FIFA before this decision had been made. On the other hand, FIFA claims that ‘there has been a consultation process with a representative group of agents’ and that FIFA kept ‘an open dialogue with agents’. Regardless, if these proposed changes go through, FIFA will be on course to a looming legal showdown.

CAS Public Hearing in the Sun Yang Case: One Step Forward for Transparency?

On 20 August, 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the hearing in the appeal procedure of the Sun Yang case will be held publicly. It will be only the second time in its history that a public hearing has been held (the last one being in 1999, Michelle Smith De Bruin v. FINA). WADA has appealed the original decision of the FINA Doping Panel which had cleared Sun Yang from an alleged anti-doping rule violation. The decision to make the hearing public was at the request of both parties. The hearing is set to take place November 15th and is likely to be an important milestone in improving the CAS’ transparency.

Sun Yang, who has already served a doping ban for a previous violation in 2014, has also been at the center of another controversy, where Mack Horton, an Australian swimmer, refused to shake hands and stand on the podium with Sun Yang at the world championships in Gwangju. More...

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). More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – June and July 2019 - By Tomáš Grell

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

The European Court of Justice finds that rule of a sports association excluding nationals of other Member States from domestic amateur athletics championships may be contrary to EU law

On 13 June 2019, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a preliminary ruling at the request of the Amtsgericht Darmstadt (Local Court Darmstadt, Germany) filed in the course of the proceedings involving Mr Daniele Biffi, an Italian amateur athlete residing in Germany, and his athletics club TopFit based in Berlin, on the one hand, and the German athletics association Deutscher Leichtathletikverband, on the other. The case concerned a rule adopted by the German athletics association under which nationals of other Member States are not allowed to be awarded the title of national champion in senior amateur athletics events as they may only participate in such events outside/without classification. The ECJ’s task was to decide whether or not the rule in question adheres to EU law.

The ECJ took the view that the two justifications for the rule in question put forward by the German athletics association did not appear to be founded on objective considerations and called upon the Amtsgericht Darmstadt to look for other considerations that would pursue a legitimate objective. In its judgment, the ECJ analysed several important legal questions, including amongst others the applicability of EU law to amateur sport or the horizontal applicability of European citizenship rights (for detailed analysis of the judgment, please see our blog written by Thomas Terraz).

Milan not featuring in this season’s edition of Europa League following a settlement with UEFA

On 28 June 2019, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rendered a consent award giving effect to a settlement agreement between UEFA and the Milan Football Club, under which the Italian club agreed to serve a one-year ban from participation in UEFA club competitions as a result of its breaches of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations over the 2015/2016/2017 and the 2016/2017/2018 monitoring periods, while the European football’s governing body agreed to set aside previous decisions of the Investigatory and Adjudicatory Chamber of its Club Financial Control Body which had found Milan guilty of the respective breaches.   

This was not the first intervention of the CAS related to Milan’s (non-)compliance with UEFA’s financial fair play regulations. In July 2018, the CAS annulled the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body of 19 June 2018 which was supposed to lead to the exclusion of the Italian club from UEFA club competitions for which it would otherwise qualify in the next two seasons (i.e. 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 seasons). Following such intervention of the CAS – which concerned the 2015/2016/2017 monitoring period – it may have appeared that Milan would eventually manage to escape a ban from participation in UEFA club competitions for breaches of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations. However, Milan’s case was again referred to the Adjudicatory Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body in April 2019 – this time its alleged breaches of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations concerned the 2016/2017/2018 monitoring period – and such referral apparently forced Milan into negotiations with UEFA which led to the settlement agreement ratified by the CAS.      

Swiss Federal Tribunal gives Caster Semenya a glimmer of hope at first but then stops her from running at the IAAF World Championships in Doha

Caster Semenya’s legal team brought an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal in late May against the landmark ruling of the CAS which gave the IAAF the green light to apply its highly contentious Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Difference of Sexual Development) preventing female athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone from participating in certain athletic events unless they take medication to supress such levels of testosterone below the threshold of five nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months. The appeal yielded some positive partial results for Caster Semenya early on as the Swiss Federal Tribunal ordered the IAAF on 3 June 2019 to suspend the implementation of the contested regulations. However, the Swiss Federal Tribunal overturned its decision at the end of July which means that Caster Semenya is no longer able to run medication-free and this will most likely be the case also when the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships kick off in Doha in less than one month’s time. The procedural decisions adopted by the Swiss Federal Tribunal thus far have no impact on the merits of Caster Semenya’s appeal.More...

Can a closed league in e-Sports survive EU competition law scrutiny? The case of LEC - By Thomas Terraz

Editor’s note: Thomas Terraz is a third year LL.B. candidate at the International and European Law programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with a specialisation in European Law. Currently he is pursuing an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on International and European Sports Law.


1.     Introduction

The organizational structure of sports in Europe is distinguished by its pyramid structure which is marked by an open promotion and relegation system. A truly closed system, without promotion and relegation, is unknown to Europe, while it is the main structure found in North American professional sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA and the NHL. Recently, top European football clubs along with certain members of UEFA have been debating different possibilities of introducing a more closed league system to European football. Some football clubs have even wielded the threat of forming an elite closed breakaway league. Piercing through these intimidations and rumors, the question of whether a closed league system could even survive the scrutiny of EU competition law remains. It could be argued that an agreement between clubs to create a completely closed league stifles competition and would most likely trigger the application of Article 101 and 102 TFEU.[1] Interestingly, a completely closed league franchise system has already permeated the European continent. As outlined in my previous blog, the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) is a European e-sports competition that has recently rebranded and restructured this year from an open promotion and relegation system to a completely closed franchise league to model its sister competition from North America, the League Championship Series. This case is an enticing opportunity to test how EU competition law could apply to such a competition structure.

As a preliminary note, this blog does not aim to argue whether the LEC is a ‘real’ sport competition and makes the assumption that the LEC could be considered as a sports competition.[2]

More...



Book Review - Football and the Law, Edited by Nick De Marco - By Despina Mavromati (SportLegis/University of Lausanne)

 Editor's Note: Dr. Despina Mavromati, LL.M., M.B.A., FCIArb is an Attorney-at-law specialized in international sports law and arbitration (SportLegis) and a Member of the UEFA Appeals Body. She teaches sports arbitration and sports contracts at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) and is a former Managing Counsel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.


This comprehensive book of more than 500 pages with contributions by 53 authors and edited by Nick De Marco QC “aims to embody the main legal principles and procedures that arise in football law”. It is comprised of 29 chapters and includes an index, a table of football regulations and a helpful table of cases including CAS awards, UEFA & FIFA Disciplinary Committee decisions and Football Association, Premier League and Football League decisions. 

The 29 chapters cover a wide range of regulatory and legal issues in football, predominantly from the angle of English law. This is logical since both the editor and the vast majority of contributing authors are practitioners from England.

Apart from being of evident use to anyone involved in English football, the book offers additional basic principles that are likely to be of use also to those involved in football worldwide, including several chapters entirely dedicated to the European and International regulatory framework on football: chapter 3 (on International Federations) gives an overview of the pyramidal structure of football internationally and delineates the scope of jurisdiction among FIFA and the confederations; chapter 4 explains European law and its application on football deals mostly with competition issues and the free movement of workers; and chapter 29 deals with international football-related disputes and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

In addition to the chapters exclusively dealing with international football matters, international perspectives and the international regulatory landscape is systematically discussed – in more or less depth, as the need might be – in several other chapters of the book, including: chapter 2 on the “Institutions” (from governing bodies to stakeholders groups in football); chapter 6 on the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP); chapter 8 dealing with (national and international) player transfers; chapter 11 (on Third Party Investment) and chapter 16 on Financial Fair Play (mostly discussing the UEFA FFP Regulations); chapter 23  on disciplinary matters (very briefly discussing the disciplinary procedures under FIFA and UEFA Disciplinary rules); chapter 24 on domestic and international doping-related cases in football, with an overview of the CAS jurisprudence in this respect; and finally chapter 23 on corruption and match-fixing (with a very short description of the FIFA and UEFA regulations).

Furthermore, the book offers extensive chapters in less discussed – yet of high importance – football topics, including: chapter 13 on image rights and key clauses in image rights agreements; chapter 14 on taxation (referring also to taxation issues in image rights and intermediary fees); chapter 15 on sponsoring and commercial rights, with a guide on the principal provisions in a football sponsoring contract and various types of disputes arising out of sponsorship rights; chapter 17 on personal injury, discussing the duty of care in football cases (from the U.K.); and chapter 18 on copyright law and broadcasting (with short references to the European law and the freedom to supply football broadcasting services).

Some chapters seem to have a more general approach to the subject matter at issue without necessarily focusing on football. These include chapters 27 (on mediation) and 22 (on privacy and defamation), and even though they were drafted by reputable experts in their fields, I would still like to see chapter 27 discuss in more detail the specific aspects, constraints and potential of mediation in football-related disputes as opposed to a general overview of mediation as a dispute-resolution mechanism. The same goes for chapter 22, but this could be explained by the fact that there are not necessarily numerous football-specific cases that are publicly available. 

As is internationally known, “football law” is male-dominated. This is also demonstrated in the fact that of the 53 contributing authors, all of them good colleagues and most of them renowned in their field, only eight are female (15%). Their opinions, however, are of great importance to the book due to the subject matter on which these women have contributed, such as player contracts (Jane Mulcahy QC), player transfers (Liz Coley), immigration issues in football (Emma Mason), broadcasting (Anita Davies) or disciplinary issues (Alice Bricogne).

The book is a success not only due to the great good work done by its editor, Nick De Marco QC but first and foremost due to its content, masterfully prepared by all 53 authors. On the one hand, the editor carefully delimited and structured the scope of each topic in a logical order and in order to avoid overlaps (a daunting task in case of edited volumes with numerous contributors like this one!), while on the other hand, all 53 authors followed a logical and consistent structure in their chapters and ensured an expert analysis that would have not been possible had this book been authored by one single person.  

Overall, I found this book to be a great initiative and a very useful and comprehensive guide written by some of the most reputable experts. The chapters are drafted in a clear and understandable way and the editor did a great job putting together some of the most relevant and topical legal and regulatory issues from the football field, thus filling a much-needed gap in the “football law” literature.

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

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

Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The rise of Dutee Chand, India’s 100 and 200-meter champion in the under 18-category, was astonishing. Her achievements were more than promising: after only two years, she broke the 100m and 200m national junior records, competed in the 100m final at the World Youth Athletics Championships in Donetsk and collected two gold medals in the Asian Junior Championships in Chinese Taipei. But, in July 2014, this steady rise was abruptly halted. Following a request from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) conducted blood tests on the Indian sprinters. Dutee was detected with female hyperandrogenism, i.e a condition where the female body produces high levels of testosterone. As a result, a few days before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the AFI declared Dutee ineligible to compete under the IAAF Regulations and prevented her from competing in future national and international events in the female category. Pursuant to the IAAF ‘Hyperandrogenism Policy’, the AFI would allow Dutee to return to competition only if she lowers her testosterone level beneath the male range by means of medical or surgical treatment.[1] On 25 September 2014, Dutee filed an appeal before the CAS, seeking to overturn the AFI’s decision and declare IAAF and IOC’s hyperandrogenism regulations null and void. She is defending her right to compete the way she actually is: a woman with high levels of testosterone. Interestingly enough, albeit a respondent, AFI supports her case.

IAAF and IOC rules set limits to female hyperandrogenism, which is deemed an unfair advantage that erodes female sports integrity. While these rules have been contested with regard to their scientific and ethical aspects, this is the first time that they will be debated in court. This appeal could have far-reaching ramifications for the sports world. It does not only seek to pave the way for a better ‘deal’ for female athletes with hyperandrogenism, who are coerced into hormonal treatment and even surgeries to ‘normalise’ themselves as women[2], but it rather brings the CAS, for the first time, before the thorny question:

How to strike a right balance between the core principle of ‘fair play’ and norms of non-discrimination, in cases where a determination of who qualifies as a ‘woman’ for the purposes of sport has to be made? 


‘Prove your gender!’

The separation between women and men in athletic competitions has been paradigmatic. Considering the sex-based physiological differences, which in case of a mixed competition would lead to virtually no women participation, the separation opened the door for women to compete at the highest levels. Nevertheless, the determination on the eligibility of women athletes to participate in the female category has become a source of controversies. So far, as decades of flawed IOC policies have demonstrated, it has not been clarified ‘who is woman’ for the purposes of sport.

The idea of ‘sex testing’ in sports dates back to 1960s and even preceded doping tests. The first gender test introduced by the IOC is nowadays laughable: nude parades of female competitors before a panel of judges in charge to verify the presence of female genitals and other sex characteristics.[3] Soon, this test was proven unworkable, since in intersex conditions, where people are born with both male and female genitalia, the outside did not match the inside.

The next test introduced was dubbed ‘chromosome testing’, which was based on the assumption that chromosomes are the key factor in determining sex, i.e. XY for male and XX for female. However, this test overlooked natural situations, where males have an extra X chromosome or females are missing one and was, therefore, soon abandoned. Thereafter, the SRY (i.e. the gene that triggers male sex determination) gene detection test was introduced, but the Olympics Games in Atlanta 1996 proved its deficiency:  eight women were tested positive for it and all were finally cleared for competition. Following this series of gender policies, which were deemed particularly discriminatory towards women with sexual development disorders, the IOC removed gender verification tests in June 1999.

It was not before 2009, in the wake of the Caster Semenya case, involving the South African 800m and 1500m runner and world champion, that an urgent need for reconsidering sex determination policies was brought into surface. Semenya’s masculine appearance, unusual muscle build and, foremost, her outstanding victory in the 2009 World Championships 800m race, fuelled a frenzy of suspicions on her gender. Following her victory, in an unprecedented breach of confidentiality and privacy rules, the IAAF leaked that Semenya had undergone tests to determine whether she had an unfair advantage as compared with other women. For three years, Semenya was not allowed to participate in events as her gender was still under investigation. In 2012, she was cleared by the gender testing committee and she began racing again. The story of Semenya, who suffered from humiliation and castigation by athletics officials and the media, unveiled IAAF’s incompetency in handling complex gender-related issues.

As a reply, in an attempt to establish an unambiguous, objective and scientifically based policy, IAAF and IOC, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, released new regulations. In that context, the focus shifted from sex testing to endogenous testosterone testing. The natural levels of testosterone have become the new golden rule: the purpose is not to determine ‘who is woman’, but rather ‘what makes a woman a woman’. Both policies are based on the assumption that testosterone is a key factor for men’s often superior strength and speed and, as a result, women with testosterone levels typical for males have an ‘unfair’ advantage. Therefore, according to the new regulations, if a female athlete has androgen levels higher than the normal male range, she is deemed ineligible to compete in women’s competition and will only be considered able to compete again if she lowers her testosterone level by means of medical or surgical treatment.

Despite IAAF’s protest to the contrary, this is the recent re-incarnation of ‘sex testing’.[4] The real import of these rules has been illustrated by the Dutee’s case. With Dutee’s appeal pending before the CAS, the legality of IAAF and IOC’s current gender policy needs to be scrutinized.


The unfair results of ‘fairness in sports’: The dark side of IAAF’s and IOC’s gender policy

Fair competition, which provides a fair opportunity to compete and prohibits athletes from competing with unfair advantages, has been widely accepted as a value integral to sports.[5] In this light, considering hyperandrogenism as an uncommon athletic capacity in relation to other female competitors, IAAF and IOC introduced the ineligibility of female athletes with hyperandrogenism in order to preserve the ‘sacrosanct’ competitive equality in the female category. However, it is our opinion that the current policy is on the borderline of what is fair for the following reasons: 

1. The ‘testosterone’ criterion as yardstick to determine eligibility?

According to the IAAF androgen policy, a general scientific consensus on naturally occurring testosterone as a relevant physical characteristic to separate athletes into different competition classes exists. The first problem is that this argument relies on the flawed assumption that a bright line between male and female can be drawn, not acknowledging situations of an ‘intersex’ status. As David Epstein, reporter and author of “The Sports Gene”, puts it clearly “neither body parts nor for the chromosome within them unequivocally differentiate male from female athletes”. Furthermore, while IAAF relies on a binary perception of biological sex in order to identify the gender of athletes, gender, in fact, is a social construction, which does not correspond to the complexities of biological sex. Secondly, it relies on the assumption that testosterone levels in the human body have limited variability within the sexes. Nevertheless, recent studies have found a complete overlap between testosterone levels in elite men and women, ripping apart testosterone levels as a reliable factor for separating between sexes.  The third problem is the lack of supporting scientific evidence that a competitive advantage can derive from high natural levels of testosterone.[6] Indeed, the scientific understanding of testosterone receptors is far from comprehensive. A recent research supported by the Swiss WADA laboratory added to the uncertainty: “Unfortunately, and to the best of our knowledge, there are neither available data on serum androgen levels nor reliable statistics on the so-called hyperandrogenism among a large and high-level female athletes’ population”.

IAAF policy, in overall, seems to create an absurd result: instead of introducing an objective criterion-if any- for separating between men and women, it rather suggests a classification of athletes between ‘high testosterone’ and ‘low testosterone’. However, ‘High-T’ and ‘Low-T’ categories of competition are not on the agenda.  

2. IAAF policy fosters discrimination

The current policy suggests a discriminatory treatment: it targets only women suspected for hyperandrogenism due to their physical appearance and high levels of performance. Women are asked to prove that they are female, while there is no such a requirement or restriction for men.

Furthermore, the fundament itself of the androgen policy is discriminatory against women who do not conform to traditional notions of femininity. Indeed, it lays on the physiological superiority of men in terms of endurance and strength as compared to women, perpetuating the long-established perception that an intrinsic link between manliness and sport exists, while femininity is associated with more gentle exercise.[7] In IAAF’s view, ‘too masculine women’ do not belong to the female category. It seems that under a scientifically based guise, IAAF seeks to impose a preference for certain social norms regarding what constitutes femininity in a woman’s appearance as criteria for participation.[8]

However, in order to perceive the level of discrimination, the most important question to be addressed is how you qualify an athlete. Hyperandrogenism is a rare biological characteristic and according to IAAF regulations and controversial scientific evidence, it gives female athletes a natural advantage that other female athletes do not have. Similarly, long limbs, broad wingspan for swimmers and height for basketball players are natural advantages.[9] Nevertheless, the later ones, but for hyperandrogenism, have never been considered as unfair. Indeed, the quintessence of elite sports lays on the participation of individuals with rare biological characteristics. In this light, the inevitable question arises: Why should female athletes like Dutee be obliged to reduce or eliminate an inherent advantage that they are born with? Why is then nobody asking a swimmer like Phelps to operate his double-jointed ankles? Or as SAI director-general Juji Thomson remarked: “ Just because Usain Bolt's height is to his advantage will the international authorities want his legs chopped off to ensure a level-playing field?” In other words, why hyperandrogenism has been viewed as different to other biological advantages broadly accepted in some elite athletes? The answer is simple: IAAF’s policy reflects the well-established public perception of femininity and female athletes who do not conform to this norm have to be excluded or ‘feminise’ themselves.

Thereby, IAAF and IOC policy exacerbate bullying and marginalization of women in sports putting their physical difference under unethical and humiliating scrutiny. Semenya had been intruded into the toilets by competitors seeking to check whether she really was a girl. While, after a race in Berlin, her competitor Mariya Savinova sneered “just look at her” when she was asked whether Semenya was a man. Similarly, the most talented female athletes, such as Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, WNBA player Brittney Griner– and the catalogue is really long-, have been accused of not really being female. This play is up again with IAAF’s ‘are you woman enough to compete as female?’ policy seeking to confer legality to discrimination.

What should not be overlooked, finally, is the bitter truth that the current IAAF policy inevitably targets in priority women from developing countries. Athletes like Semenya or Dutee never perceived their difference, until they appeared on track field courts, where this difference has been flagged in the most humiliating way as abnormality. In sharp contrast to IOC’s declarations on eliminating any kind of discrimination in sports, IAAF and IOC gender policy achieves the most undesirable result: sex and social discrimination ‘all-in-one’. 

3. The disproportionate results of IAAF’s policy: To undergo treatment or not? This is not a question!

Female athletes with hyperandrogenism are faced with two choices: undergo medical treatment to fit the IAAF ‘Procrustean bed’ or abandon female competitions. The disproportionate and unfair consequences are evident.

As Katrina Karkazis, pioneer of Dutee’s motion against IAAF, remarks, the IAAF and IOC treat a physical difference as an illness, which requires a medical response. However, the necessity of such an invasive medical, or surgical, intervention is highly questionable. The suggested treatment does not stop at lowering female athletes’ testosterone level below IAAF’s limit of 10nmol/liter, but it rather aims to eliminate hyperandrogenism. In this sense, sharing IAAF’s assumption that testosterone is the key to performance, such treatment will render athletes like Dutee less competitive than other women who do not have hyperandrogenism or whose hyperandrogenism is below the cut-off. Thereby, IAAF policy, albeit mandating fairness in competition, puts a disproportionate burden on female athletes with hyperandrogenism.

Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the medical effects of the treatment suggested. In fact, it has been argued that long-term hormone therapy can have devastating results on female athletes’ health. Dutee’s denial to undergo this treatment is far from a ‘caprice’. A study published in 2013 revealed the cases of four female athletes identified as having hyperandrogenism, who were sent to a clinic in France. It was reported that those athletes also had medical procedures that had nothing to do with lowering their testosterone levels for sports: a reduction to the size of their clitorises, feminizing plastic surgery and oestrogen replacement therapy. It seems that the IAAF is pulling the trigger on female athletes’ head, who are ready to accept any treatment- even the most questionable ones- in order to keep competing.

On the other hand, the ineligibility sanction leads to a further disproportionate result: If Dutee is considered too masculine to compete in the female category, does she qualify for the male category? Can the mere presence of higher testosterone levels in a female athlete’s body presume that she can compete as a man? The answer has to be answered in negative, notwithstanding the ‘fair play’ issues that may arise. IAAF and IOC rules are cruelly disproportionate: athletes like Dutee who refuse to undergo this questionable treatment are effectively left without a forum to display their talent.


Do it like Pistorius

So far, the IAAF and IOC policy have been shown scientifically shaky, discriminatory and disproportionate. In parallel with these arguments, Dutee has also a very important precedent to rely upon: the CAS ruling in the Pistorius case.

In 2008, Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee runner, challenged IAAF rules that prohibited competitive running on ‘cheetah’ legs in international IAAF-sanctioned events alongside able-bodied athlete as being in breach of its commitment to non-discrimination. In that case, the fundamental rights of disabled athletes to be adequately accommodated and have genuinely equal opportunity to compete were at issue. Pistorius had to prove that he gained no advantage from using the prostheses. Reviewing scientific testing and analysis, the CAS concluded that ‘Cheetah’ legs did not give Pistorius an overall advantage.

Although the ‘tailor-made’ effect of the award could raise serious criticism[10], the Pistorius case has been landmark from a twofold point of view. Firstly, the CAS did not hesitate to challenge the indeterminacy of scientific analysis and developed the ‘net advantage’ approach, which stipulates that both the benefits and burdens have to be taken into consideration in determining whether a device provides an advantage to an athlete who uses it.[11] A similar approach has been adopted in the Veerpalu doping case, where the CAS questioned the scientific reliability of the limits applied for the WADA human growth hormone test (HGH).[12] Pistorius and Veerpalu cases have set an important threshold: international sports governing bodies, when it comes to enforce scientific- related sanctions, should rely on scientifically well-founded assessments.

Secondly, the CAS took an extraordinary step. It sent a clear message to international federations that they must address the eligibility criteria surrounding disabled athletes in a transparent and impartial manner.[13] There is no reason why the CAS in the Dutee case would do it differently. After all, sporting rules that seek to ensure fair competition and prevent a competitor from obtaining an unfair advantage have at least to be proportionate and non-discriminatory. 


Let Dutee Run?

The lines between male and female are blurring. As Fausto-Sterling has observed “the reason sports federations can’t get this right is because there is no right”.[14] Sports governing bodies may never be able to ensure fair competition without reaching absurd results.[15] In its daunting task to legally enforce controversial science related and ethical issues, CAS is facing a double challenge. It has the opportunity to set fair and accurate eligibility rules based on objective criteria, which will also preserve the essence of sports. Undoubtedly, sports governing bodies have the authority to establish their eligibility rules. However, self-regulation does not come without limits: sports federations’ rules have to comply with the non-discrimination clauses included in their statutes[16] and the IOC charter. The role of the CAS in monitoring the compliance of these regulations with non-discrimination norms is essential. Therefore, in some cases, CAS has to leave its ‘comfort-zone’: it has to deviate from its well-established practice to provide a significant degree of deference to sports governing bodies with regard to their authority to establish the eligibility rules and rather applies a ‘fairness’ requirement on a case-by-case basis, such as in the Pistorius case.

More importantly, CAS has the chance to finally flesh out the toothless IAAF and IOC commitments to gender equality. Dutee’s case is a fertile ground for an interpretation in the light and purpose of the recent UN resolution on sport and the proclaimed values underpinning the Olympic 2020 Agenda. After all, what is the point of trumpeting non-discrimination in sports, if, in 2014, a female athlete is deemed ‘not woman enough’ to compete with women?

Whatever the CAS decides, one thing remains certain: discrimination against women with sexual development specificities will not anymore be in the blind spot of the law. Dutee showed the way.



[1] IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition - In force as from 1st May 2011 ,  Article 6.8 <http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/medical >

[2] Dr Ben Koh, Daryl Adair and  Peter Sonksen OBE, ‘Testosterone, sex and gender differentiation in sport – where science and sports law meet’ (14 October 2014) <http://www.lawinsport.com/articles/item/testosterone-sex-and-gender-differentiation-in-sport-where-science-and-sports-law-meet>

[3]  J Ellison, ‘Caster Semenya And The IOC’s Olympics Gender Bender’ (26 July 2012) <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/26/caster-semenya-and-the-ioc-s-olympics-gender-bender.html>

[4] R Pielke, ‘Dutee Chand, science and the spirit of sport: why IAAF policy is deeply flawed’ (20 October 2014) <http://www.sportingintelligence.com/2014/10/20/dutee-chand-science-and-the-spirit-of-sport-why-iaaf-policy-is-deeply-flawed-201001/>

[5] P Zettler, ‘Is It Cheating to Use the Cheetahs? The Implications of Technologically Innovative Prostheses for Sports Values and Rules’ (2009) 27 Boston University International Law Journal, 389.

[6] M Naimark, ‘A New Study Supports Female Athletes Unfairly Excluded From Sport’ (12 September 2014) <http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/09/12/sex_verification_in_sports_a_new_study_supports_unfairly_excluded_female.html>

[7] Dr Ben Koh,Daryl Adair and  Peter Sonksen OBE (n 2)

[8] R Pielke (n 4)

[9] For a very interesting comparison of the physiques between athletes from a wide range of different sports and competitions, see Howard Schatz’s Athlete series.

[10] CAS 2008/A/1480 Pistorius v/ IAAF (16 May 2008), para 56.

[11] CAS 2008/A/1480 Pistorius v/ IAAF (16 May 2008), para 36.

[12] M Viret and E Wisnosky, ‘Sinkewitz v. Veerpalu: Struggling to fit anti-doping science into a legal framework’ (19 March 2014) < http://wadc-commentary.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/WADC_COMMENTARY_Sinkewitz-Blog.pdf>

[13] Cornelius, 236

[14] J Ellison (n 3).

[15] P Zettler (n 5), 394.

[16] For instance, IAAF Constitution 2011, Art 3: “The Objects of IAAF are (…) 4. To strive to ensure that no gender, race, religious, political or other kind of unfair discrimination exists, continues to exist, or is allowed to develop in Athletics in any form, and that all may participate in Athletics regardless of their gender, race, religious or political views or any other irrelevant factor.”

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