Complete Guide to the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Complete Guide to the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Complete Guide to the Court of Arbitration for Sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is frequently called upon to settle disputes in the world of sports. But have you ever wondered how it actually operates?

What is the Court of Arbitration for Sport?

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, also known as CAS, is an independent arbitration court located in Lausanne, Switzerland. CAS, or Tribunal arbitral du sport (TAS) in French, issues rulings on various international sports matters such as doping bans, compliance with competition regulations, and contractual disputes.

More than 400 arbitrators from 87 different countries, chosen for their expertise in both arbitration and sports law, comprise the CAS arbitrators. Athletes, clubs, sports organizations, event organizers, television broadcasters, and sponsors all have the right to appeal to CAS.

CAS handles around 300 cases annually, with its rulings being binding within the realm of sports but not in criminal or civil law.

How was CAS founded?

The establishment of CAS dates back to June 30, 1984. The concept of establishing a legal framework for resolving disputes in international sports originated from Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In the early 1980s, the growing professionalization of sports and the escalating need for arbitration motivated Samaranch to take action. Initially, CAS consisted of a limited membership of 60 individuals, exclusively appointed by the IOC, the IOC President, international sports federations, and the National Olympic Committees.

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What prompted the reform of the CAS in 1994?

In 1994, criticism regarding the CAS’s dependency on the IOC prompted a reform of the organization. The ICAS (International Council of Arbitration for Sport) foundation established itself to assume the roles of administration and financing for the CAS, replacing the IOC in these capacities.

Additionally, the ICAS is responsible for appointing CAS judges. The foundation primarily receives funding from procedural fees, although the IOC, FIFA, and other sports federations also contribute.

Since 1996, CAS has established ad hoc chambers at major sporting events like the Olympic Games and the football World Cup, enabling swift resolution of disputes that arise during competitions.

Why is criticism still prevalent?

There are still critics who argue that CAS lacks independence. They believe that influential sports organizations like the IOC and UEFA hold too much sway over CAS. The panel primarily consisting of representatives from the same sports federations that financially support it appoints CAS judges.

Critics have pointed out potential conflicts of interest in certain cases, where a CAS judge also served as an advisor to a sports federation involved in the dispute.

Critics also highlight the issue of a concentrated workload among a few CAS judges, leaving a substantial number with minimal or no cases to handle. Before announcing, not all decisions need review by the CAS Secretary General.

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What is the process involved in arbitration proceedings before the CAS?

Arbitration proceedings before the CAS operate in the following manner. In order to have a dispute resolved by CAS, individuals must first submit an application for either ordinary arbitration proceedings or an appeal, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. It is important to note that one can only pursue an appeal procedure once they have exhausted all other legal remedies within the relevant sports organization.

After submitting the application, the defendant must provide a written response to CAS. Initially, both parties communicate in writing until CAS schedules a hearing, where both parties attend. During the hearing, both sides have the opportunity to present their arguments and provide evidence. The arbitration panel communicates the final decision a few weeks after the hearing. In the case of an appeal, the panel announces the decision on the same day.

Three arbitrators are involved throughout the entire process. Each party involved in the dispute has the right to choose one arbitrator from a list of arbitrators. The two chosen arbitrators then collaborate to determine who will preside over the proceedings.

Is it possible to appeal Court of Arbitration for Sport judgments?

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, located in Lausanne, allows for the possibility of appealing its decisions to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which can potentially overturn them. It’s crucial to emphasize that filing an appeal requires meeting specific criteria. One such criterion entails identifying significant procedural errors made by the CAS during the arbitration process.

Moreover, it is worth mentioning that not all national sports federations recognize CAS as the ultimate authority in sports law. Consequently, there remains an inequality in the treatment of athletes on an international level when it comes to matters of sports law.

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What are some notable cases that have been heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport?

In February 2012, the CAS upheld a doping ban against professional cyclist Alberto Contador, resulting in him losing his victories in the 2010 Tour de France and the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

In May 2019, the CAS presided over the legal matter concerning intersex athlete Caster Semenya. South Africa fought against the IAAF’s requirement for her to artificially lower her higher testosterone level with medication in order to compete in women’s competitions. While CAS acknowledged the discrimination, they upheld the IAAF’s regulation. In July 2023, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a favorable verdict for Semenya and fellow intersex athletes.

There have also been other recent decisions that garnered attention, such as the confirmation of a four-year doping ban against Russian figure skater Kamila Valiyeva, and the reduction of tennis pro Simona Halep’s doping ban from four years to nine months.

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