Asser International Sports Law Blog

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

The 2014 Dortmund judgment: what potential for a follow-on class action? By Zygimantas Juska

Class actions are among the most powerful legal tools available in the US to enforce competition rules. With more than 75 years of experience, the American system offers valuable lessons about the benefits and drawbacks of class actions for private enforcement in competition law. Once believed of as only a US phenomenon, class actions are slowly becoming reality in the EU. After the adoption of the Directive on damages actions in November 2014, the legislative initiative in collective redress (which could prescribe a form of class actions) is expected in 2017.[1] Some pro-active Member States have already taken steps to introduce class actions in some fashion, like, for example, Germany.

What is a class action? It is a lawsuit that allows many similar legal claims with a common interest to be bundled into a single court action. Class actions facilitate access to justice for potential claimants, strengthen the negotiating power and contribute to the efficient administration of justice. This legal mechanism ensures a possibility to claim cessation of illegal behavior (injunctive relief) or to claim compensation for damage suffered (compensatory relief).  More...

The Pechstein ruling of the OLG München - A Rough Translation

The Pechstein decision of the Oberlandesgericht of Munich is “ground-breaking”, “earth-shaking”, “revolutionary”, name it. It was the outmost duty of a “German-reading” sports lawyer to translate it as fast as possible in order to make it available for the sports law community at large (Disclaimer: This is not an official translation and I am no certified legal translator). Below you will find the rough translation of the ruling (the full German text is available here), it is omitting solely the parts, which are of no direct interest to international sports law.

The future of CAS is in the balance and this ruling should trigger some serious rethinking of the institutional set-up that underpins it. As you will see, the ruling is not destructive, the Court is rather favourable to the function of CAS in the sporting context, but it requires a fundamental institutional reshuffling. It also offers a fruitful legal strategy to challenge CAS awards that could be used in front of any national court of the EU as it is based on reasoning analogically applicable to article 102 TFEU (on abuse of a dominant position), which is valid across the EU’s territory.

Enjoy the read! 

Antoine

PS: The translation can also be downloaded at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2561297

 More...




From Veerpalu to Lalluka: ‘one step forward, two steps back’ for CAS in dealing with Human Growth Hormone tests (by Thalia Diathesopoulou)

In autumn 2011, the Finnish cross-country skier Juha Lalluka, known as a “lone-wolf” because of his training habit, showed an adverse analytical finding with regard to human growth hormone (hGH). The timing was ideal. As the FINADA Supervisory Body in view of the A and B positive samples initiated disciplinary proceedings against Lalluka for violation of anti-doping rules, the Veerpalu case was pending before the CAS. At the athlete’s request, the Supervisory Board postponed the proceedings until the CAS rendered the award in the Veerpalu case. Indeed, on 25 March 2013, the CAS shook the anti-doping order: it cleared Andrus Veerpalu of an anti-doping rule violation for recombinant hGH (rhGH) on the grounds that the decision limits set by WADA to define the ratio beyond which the laboratories should report the presence of rhGH had not proven scientifically reliable.

The Veerpalu precedent has become a rallying flag for athletes suspected of use of hGH and confirmed some concerns raised about the application of the hGH test. Not surprisingly, Sinkewitz and Lallukka followed the road that Veerpalu paved and sought to overturn their doping ban by alleging the scientific unreliability of the hGH decisions limits. Without success, however. With the full text of the CAS award on the Lallukka case released a few weeks ago[1] and the new rules of the 2015 WADA Code coming into force, we grasp the opportunity to outline the ambiguous approach of CAS on the validity of the hGH test. In short: Should the Veerpalu case and its claim that doping sanctions should rely on scientifically well founded assessments be considered as a fundamental precedent or as a mere exception? More...

State Aid and Sport: does anyone really care about rugby? By Beverley Williamson

There has been a lot of Commission interest in potential state aid to professional football clubs in various Member States.  The huge sums of money involved are arguably an important factor in this interest and conversely, is perhaps the reason why state aid in rugby union is not such a concern. But whilst the sums of money may pale into comparison to those of professional football, the implications for the sport are potentially no less serious.

At the end of the 2012/2013 season, Biarritz Olympique (Biarritz) were relegated from the elite of French Rugby Union, the Top 14 to the Pro D2.  By the skin of their teeth, and as a result of an injection of cash from the local council (which amounted to 400,000€), they were spared administrative relegation to the amateur league below, the Fédérale 1, which would have occurred as a result of the financial state of the club.More...

State aid in Croatia and the Dinamo Zagreb case

Introduction

The year 2015 promises to be crucial, and possibly revolutionary, for State aid in football. The European Commission is taking its time in concluding its formal investigations into alleged State aid granted to five Dutch clubs and several Spanish clubs, including Valencia CF and Real Madrid, but the final decisions are due for 2015.

A few months ago, the Commission also received a set of fresh State aid complaints originating from the EU’s newest Member State Croatia. The complaints were launched by a group of minority shareholders of the Croatian football club Hajduk Split, who call themselves Naš Hajduk. According to Naš Hajduk, Hajduk Split’s eternal rival, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, has received more than 30 million Euros in unlawful aid by the city of Zagreb since 2006.More...

“The Odds of Match Fixing – Facts & Figures on the integrity risk of certain sports bets”. By Ben Van Rompuy

Media reports and interested stakeholders often suggest that certain types of sports bets would significantly increase the risks of match fixing occurring. These concerns also surface in policy discussions at both the national and European level. Frequently calls are made to prohibit the supply of “risky” sports bets as a means to preserve the integrity of sports competitions.

Questions about the appropriateness of imposing such limitations on the regulated sports betting, however, still linger. The lack of access to systematic empirical evidence on betting-related match fixing has so far limited the capacity of academic research to make a proper risk assessment of certain types of sports bets. 

The ASSER International Sports Law Centre has conducted the first-ever study that assesses the integrity risks of certain sports bets on the basis of quantitative empirical evidence. 

We uniquely obtained access to key statistics from Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System (FDS). A five-year dataset of football matches worldwide, which the FDS identified as likely to have been targeted by match fixers, enabled us to observe patterns and correlations with certain types of sports bets. In addition, representative samples of football bets placed with sports betting operator Betfair were collected and analysed. 

The results presented in this report, which challenge several claims about the alleged risks generated by certain types of sports bets, hope to inform policy makers about the cost-effectiveness of imposing limits on the regulated sports betting offer.More...

The Pechstein ruling of the Oberlandesgericht München - Time for a new reform of CAS?

Editor's note (13 July 2015): We (Ben Van Rompuy and I) have just published on SSRN an article on the Pechstein ruling of the OLG. It is available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2621983. Feel free to download it and to share any feedback with us!


On 15 January 2015, the earth must have been shaking under the offices of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne when the Oberlandesgericht München announced its decision in the Pechstein case. If not entirely unpredictable, the decision went very far (further than the first instance) in eroding the legal foundations on which sports arbitration rests. It is improbable (though not impossible) that the highest German civil court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), which will most likely be called to pronounce itself in the matter, will entirely dismiss the reasoning of the Oberlandesgericht. This blogpost is a first examination of the legal arguments used (Disclaimer: it is based only on the official press release, the full text of the ruling will be published in the coming months).More...



In blood we trust? The Kreuziger Biological Passport Case. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

Over the last twenty years, professional cycling has developed the reputation of one of the “most drug soaked sports in the world”.[1] This should not come as a surprise. The sport’s integrity has plummeted down due to an unprecedented succession of doping scandals. La crème de la crème of professional cyclists has been involved in doping incidents including Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Alejandro Valverde and Lance Armstrong. The once prestigious Tour de France has been stigmatized as a race of “pharmacological feat, not a physical one”.[2]

In view of these overwhelming shadows, in 2008, the International Cycling Union (UCI), in cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took a leap in the fight against doping. It became the first International Sports Federation to implement a radical new anti-doping program known as the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).[3] More...

A Question of (dis)Proportion: The CAS Award in the Luis Suarez Biting Saga

The summer saga surrounding Luis Suarez’s vampire instincts is long forgotten, even though it might still play a role in his surprisingly muted football debut in FC Barcelona’s magic triangle. However, the full text of the CAS award in the Suarez case has recently be made available on CAS’s website and we want to grasp this opportunity to offer a close reading of its holdings. In this regard, one has to keep in mind that “the object of the appeal is not to request the complete annulment of the sanction imposed on the Player” (par.33). Instead, Suarez and Barcelona were seeking to reduce the sanction imposed by FIFA. In their eyes, the four-month ban handed out by FIFA extending to all football-related activities and to the access to football stadiums was excessive and disproportionate. Accordingly, the case offered a great opportunity for CAS to discuss and analyse the proportionality of disciplinary sanctions based on the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FIFA DC).  More...

The International Sports Law Digest – Issue II – July-December 2014

I. Literature


1. Antitrust/Competition Law and Sport

G Basnier, ‘Sports and competition law: the case of the salary cap in New Zealand rugby union’, (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.155

R Craven, ‘Football and State aid: too important to fail?’ (2014) 14 The International Sports Law Journal 3-4, p.205

R Craven, ‘State Aid and Sports Stadiums: EU Sports Policy or Deference to Professional Football (2014) 35 European Competition Law Review Issue 9, 453


2. Intellectual Property Rights in Sports law / Betting rights/ Spectators’ rights/ Sponsorship Agreements

Books

W T Champion and K DWillis, Intellectual property law in the sports and entertainment industries (Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Oxford, England: Praeger 2014)

J-M Marmayou and F Rizzo, Les contrats de sponsoring sportif (Lextenso éditions 2014) 

More...






Asser International Sports Law Blog | The SFT’s Semenya Decision under European human rights standards: Conflicting considerations and why a recourse could be successful at Strasbourg - By Kevin Gerenni

Asser International Sports Law Blog

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

The SFT’s Semenya Decision under European human rights standards: Conflicting considerations and why a recourse could be successful at Strasbourg - By Kevin Gerenni

Editor's note: Kevin Gerenni is Assistant Professor in Public International Law (Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Buenos Aires) and LLM Candidate 2021 in Public International Law at the London School of Economics.


Even though the decision rendered by the SFT in the Semenya Case was foreseeable, the Tribunal did put forward some concerning reasoning in terms of public policy (“ordre public”) and human rights. In case Semenya decides to challenge the Swiss state before the ECtHR, one can expect the case to shake some grounds at the ECtHR, which would be faced with the question of the application to sport not of fair trial guarantees (as in Mutu & Pechstein) but of substantial human rights provisions such as the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex (Article 14 ECHR) and the right to private life (Article 8 ECHR).

Under Swiss law, the reasons that may lead to the annulment of an arbitral award are enumerated in art. 190 of the Swiss Private International Law Act (PILA). Semenya’s strongest case relied on art. 190(2)(e): the award’s incompatibility with public policy. Naturally, this point concentrated most of the SFT’s attention. In order to analyze the compatibility of the CAS award with Swiss public policy, the SFT focused on three main potential breaches of human rights: prohibition of discrimination, personality rights, and human dignity. In doing so, it put forward certain observations that differ with European human rights standards and the ECtHR’s jurisprudence. The purpose of this short article is to analyze those discrepancies and, consequently, Semenya’s prospects of success before the Strasbourg Tribunal.


I.               The scope of Swiss public policy versus ECHR guarantees

To begin with, the SFT distinguished between Swiss public policy and the scope of the ECHR provisions:

“An award is incompatible with public policy if it disregards essential and widely accepted values which, according to the views prevailing in Switzerland, should constitute the foundation of any legal system” (para. 9.1).[1]

“This is the place to specify that the violation of the provisions of the ECHR or of the Constitution does not count among the grievances restrictively enumerated by art. 190(2) PILA. It is therefore not possible to directly invoke such a violation. (…) Thus, the plea alleging a violation of public policy is not admissible insofar it simply tends to establish that the award in question is contrary to the various guarantees drawn from the ECHR and the Constitution.” (para. 9.2).

Contrary to this interpretation, the ECtHR has referred to the fundamental role of the ECHR in specifying the reach of a European public policy. In Loizidou v. Turkey (Preliminary Objections), it stated:

“(…) the Court must bear in mind the special character of the Convention as an instrument of European public order (ordre public) for the protection of individual human beings and its mission (…) "to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties" ” (para. 93).      

In that same judgment, it remarked the value of the ECHR as “a constitutional instrument of European public order (ordre public)” (para. 75). Similar understandings can be found in Bosphorus v. Ireland and Avotiņš v. Latvia, among others. As a consequence of this preeminent position that the ECHR holds, certain interests of the State must be outweighed by the Convention’s role in the field of human rights (Bosphorus at para. 156).


II.             The concept of “horizontal effect” in human rights violations

The SFT continued with the analysis of the prohibition of discrimination, for which it partially rest upon an argument that evidently collides with European human rights criteria. Although the Tribunal also concluded that the “relationship between an athlete and a global sports federation shows some similarities to those between an individual and a State” (para. 9.4), it did argue that under Swiss law the prohibition of discrimination does not have a direct horizontal effect. The SFT considered that:

“Although the SFT has consistently held that the prohibition of discrimination is a matter of public policy (…) it has done so, primarily, in order to protect the individual vis-à-vis the State. In this respect, it may be noted that, from the point of view of Swiss constitutional law, the case law considers that the guarantee of the prohibition of discrimination is addressed to the State and does not, in principle, produce a direct horizontal effect on relations between private persons. (…) It is therefore far from obvious that the prohibition of discrimination by private individuals is one of the essential and widely recognized values which, according to the prevailing conceptions in Switzerland, should form the basis of any legal system.” (para. 9.4).

The ECtHR has a long tradition of deeming States responsible for not preventing or sanctioning human rights violations between private persons, which means that the ECHR also applies horizontally. Since its 1981 ruling Young, James and Webster v. the UK, the Court has repeatedly held that the responsibility of a State is engaged if a violation of one of the Convention’s rights is the result of non-observance by that State of its obligation under Article 1 to secure those rights and freedoms to everyone within its jurisdiction.[2]

In Pla and Puncernau v. Andorra, the Court held the State responsible for the rulings of its domestic courts, which did not redress an individual from the discrimination inflicted by another private person. The Court, referring to its duties, clearly affirmed that:

“In exercising the European supervision incumbent on it, it cannot remain passive where a national court’s interpretation of a legal act, be it a testamentary disposition, a private contract, a public document, a statutory provision or an administrative practice appears unreasonable, arbitrary or, as in the present case, blatantly inconsistent with the prohibition of discrimination established by Article 14 and more broadly with the principles underlying the Convention.” (para. 59).

Finally, in this same vein in Identoba and Others v. Georgia, the ECtHR sanctioned the State by explaining that the difference in treatment leading to discrimination can source from a purely private action, which in this particular case included attacks to a transgender person.


III.           The necessity and proportionality of the DSD regulations

Throughout its ruling, the SFT followed the reasoning advanced by the CAS to determine that the IAAF (today “World Athletics”) DSD regulations were not in violation of fundamental human rights. With a view to analyzing a recourse to the ECtHR, I will focus on the discrimination and human dignity sections of the ruling (for a remarkably-detailed insight of the SFT’s core findings please refer to  Marjolaine Viret’s recent blog).

In assessing the necessity of the DSD regulations –pursuant to the alleged legitimate aim of fair competition– the SFT considered that “female athletes are disadvantaged and deprived of chances of success when they have to compete against 46 XY DSD athletes. The statistics speak for themselves.” (para. 9.8.3.4). A fact that does not seem to be getting attention is the “800 Metres Women” all-time records table, which lists three women with a better time than Caster Semenya. None of these three women were reported to be DSD athletes. Also, the scientific articles that supposedly demonstrate unequivocal advantage for DSD athletes have been denounced as flawed (for example, by Pielke Jr., Tucker & Boye). Nevertheless, the SFT invoked the ECtHR’s FNASS and Others v. France to shockingly conclude that “the search for a fair sport represents an important goal which is capable of justifying serious encroachments upon sportspeople’s rights”[3] (para. 9.8.3.3).

In addition, the SFT assessed the proportionality of the regulations vis-à-vis the potential gender identity implications. The SFT primarily relied on the allegedly-mild side effects caused by the hormonal treatment: “no different in nature from the side effects experienced by thousands, if not millions, of other women of type XX” (para. 9.8.3.5).

Referring to gender identity (stemming from human dignity), the SFT argued that:

“It must be made clear that the sentence does not in any way seek to question the female sex of the 46 XY DSD athletes or to determine whether they are sufficiently “female”. It is not a question of knowing what a woman or an intersex person is. The only issue to be resolved is whether it is contrary to human dignity to create certain rules of eligibility, for the purposes of sporting equity and equal opportunity, applicable only to certain women who enjoy an insurmountable advantage arising from certain innate biological characteristics. (…) In some contexts, as specific competitive sport, it is permissible that biological characteristics may, exceptionally and for the purposes of fairness and equality of opportunity, overshadow a person’s legal sex or gender identity.” (para. 11.1).

The SFT struggles to highlight that Semenya’s “female sex” is not under question. However, the DSD regulations, implemented in competitions that are divided into the male/female binary, denote that Semenya’s innate sex is not female enough as to compete in female events. On the other hand, she is allowed to compete in male events.

The ECtHR has a growing jurisprudence relating to discrimination on the basis of sex which, especially linked to gender identity, leads to violations of the ECHR Articles 14 and 8. In the 2002 leading case Goodwin v. the UK which dealt with Article 8 ECHR violations, the Court remarked that:

“It is not apparent to the Court that the chromosomal element, amongst all the others, must inevitably take on decisive significance for the purposes of legal attribution of gender identity for transsexuals.” (para. 82).

It is true that Goodwin involved the rights of a trans person, not intersex.[4] However, as the European Commission points out in its Trans and intersex equality rights in Europe – A comparative analysis, the judgment was the inception of States obligation to legally recognize preferred gender in Europe. Similar conclusions in favor of gender identity would later appear, among others, in Y. Y. v Turkey, Van Kück v. Germany and Identoba and Others v. Georgia (this last one dealing with Article 14 ECHR). In Garçon and Nicot v. France the Court underpinned that “the right to respect for private life under Article 8 applies fully to gender identity, as a component of personal identity. This holds true for all individuals.” (para. 95). Later in that judgment, it rendered a particularly relevant observation for Semenya’s case:

“Medical treatment cannot be considered to be the subject of genuine consent when the fact of not submitting to it deprives the person concerned of the full exercise of his or her right to gender identity and personal development, which, as previously stated, is a fundamental aspect of the right to respect for private life.” (para. 130).

It must be noted that this paragraph pertains particularly to the world of sport. “Personal development” is a fundamental part of the Principles of the Olympic Movement, as this article by Durántez Corral et al. indicates.


Conclusions

The reasoning behind the above paragraphs supports Semenya’s case before the ECtHR and would give her a serious chance to prevail in Strasbourg. Even though it is true that the Court has mostly endorsed the lex sportiva system with its judgments FNASS, Platini and Mutu & Pechstein, the latter did aim at certain fair trial deficiencies and triggered concrete changes. Could Semenya’s case be stronger? Yes, for instance if Switzerland had ratified Protocol No. 12 ECHR or if the former IAAF were based in Switzerland instead of Monaco (an issue which the SFT took care to highlight).

On the other hand, the judges could additionally resort to extremely relevant reports in the field of intersex rights, namely the Council of Europe’s document on eliminating discrimination against intersex people, or refer to the categorical document against DSD regulations written by three UN experts. Needless to say, these instruments support the athlete’s claims even further.

The scenario is set for Semenya to create considerable turmoil if she decides to take the case to Strasbourg, where the ECtHR will have to engage –once again and deeper this time– with lex sportiva and Switzerland’s role in ensuring that sports governing bodies comply with human rights. Or, will it look the other way?


*All translations of the SFT’s decision done by the author from French, except where otherwise noted.


[1] Translation done by Marjolaine Viret for her blog article “Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold: Dissecting the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s Semenya Decision”, available here.

[2] See Spielmann, D.; “Chapter 14: The European Convention on Human Rights, The European Court of Human Rights” in Human Rights and the Private Sphere: A Comparative Study (p. 430); Eds. Oliver, D. &  Fedtke, J.; Routledge; 2007. 

[3] Translation done by Marjolaine Viret for her blog article “Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold: Dissecting the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s Semenya Decision”, available here.

[4] As shown in the excerpt, the judgment did address the relevance (or the lack of it) of the “chromosomal element” in defining a person’s gender.

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