The court of arbitration for sport |

The court of arbitration for sport

Rohn K. Robbins

Several doping scandals the Marion Jones debacle and the recent Phonax/Tyler Hamilton suspension among them have brought into focus the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Lest you get the wrong idea, however, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (hereafter the “CAS”) does not deal exclusively with drug disputes. Although, at times, especially in recent times, it certainly seems the case.It is worth noting that the CAS is an international court with headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was formed in the early-1980s in response to the increase in number of international sports-related disputes and was meant to fill a void where no independent authority specializing in sports-related problems then existed. Founded in 1981 at the instigation of the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”), the CAS is patterned after the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) in The Hague, Netherlands. In fact, the first President of the CAS was K’ba Mbaye who was formerly a judge at the ICJ. In 1983, the IOC officially ratified the statutes of the CAS which officially came into existence on June, 1984. Initially, the CAS was underwritten, and almost fully supported, by the IOC which bore all costs of operation.The CAS Statute of 1984 was accompanied by a set of procedural Regulations, both of which were modified in 1990. Under these rules, the CAS was composed of 60 members appointed by the IOC, the International Federations (“IF”), the National Olympic Committees (“NOC”) and the IOC President (15 members each).Up to 1991-1992, a wide variety of cases were submitted to the CAS involving issues such as the nationality of athletes, contracts concerning employment, television rights, sponsorship and licensing. In 1991, the CAS published a model arbitration clause which opened up the CAS to hearing arbitration appeals related to, among other things, doping, both human and equine. Then, in 1994, owing to a horse doping case and the legal challenges which followed, the CAS, underwent a major reform, largely to make it definitively independent of the IOC. The greatest change resulting from the 1994 reforms was the creation of an International Council of Arbitration for Sports (“ICAS”) to assume both the operation and financing of the CAS, thus replacing the erstwhile influence of the IOC. Another major change was to create two arbitration divisions, one which would deal with “direct” disputes of sole instance, and another which would deal with appeals arising from a decision taken by a sports body such as an International Federation. The divisions are known, formally, as the Ordinary Arbitration Division and the Appeals Arbitration Division. Each division is headed by a president.These reforms, and other changes, were encoded in a new Code of Sports-related Arbitration which was adopted effective November 22, 1994. The new code was adopted at a meeting in Paris and is known, rather logically, as the Paris Agreement. It was ratified by the presidents of the IOC, the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, the Association of Winter Sports Federations and the Association of National Olympic Committees.Since the Paris Agreement was signed, all Olympic International Federations but one, and many National Olympic Committees, have recognized the jurisdiction of the CAS and have incorporated in their statutes an arbitration clauses referring disputes to the CAS.Since November 22, 1994, the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (the “Code”) has governed the organization and arbitration procedures of the CAS. The 69-article Code is divided into two parts: the Statutes of bodies working for the settlement of sports-related disputes, and the Procedural Rules. Since 1999, the Code has also contained a set of mediation rules instituting a non-binding, informal procedure which offers parties the option of negotiating and agreement to settle their disputes which the help of a mediator.There are two phases to arbitration proceedings before the CAS: written proceedings, with an exchange of statements of the case, and oral proceedings, where the parties are heard by the arbitrators, generally at the seat of the CAS in Lausanne.There are nearly 200 150 CAS arbitrators who have both legal training and particular expertise in sports disputes. The arbitrators are not affiliated with a particular CAS division and can sit on panels called upon to rule under both the “ordinary’ and “appeals” procedure. CAS panels are composed of either a single arbitrator or of three.Generally, disputes may be submitted to the CAS only if there is an arbitration agreement between the parties which specifies recourse to the CAS. In principle, two types of disputes may be submitted to the CAS: those of a commercial nature, and those of a disciplinary nature. The first essentially pertains to contract issues: sponsorship, television rights, the staging of sports events, player transfers and the like. Additionally, liability issues may also be dealt with, including accidents or injuries sustained by athletes during competition. Disciplinary matters represent the second group and involve doping cases, violence on the field of play, abuse of officials and ill treatment of horses.In its roughly 20 years of existence, the CAS has involved and grown, handling an ever-expanding load of cases, many of which, in recent years, have made headlines around the world. At is core, the CAS offers a definitive mechanism for alternative dispute resolution, thus providing an cost-effective and time-effective alternative to traditional lawsuits in the world of sports and sports-related disputes.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He can be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins can be reached at 970-926-4461 or by e-mail at Colorado

Support Local Journalism