During the 2023/2024 academic year, the Asser International Sports Law Centre will dedicate special attention to the intersection between transnational sports law and governance and gender. This online discussion is the first of a series of (online and offline) events which will explore the way in which international SGBs and the CAS define the gender divide in international sports, police gender-based abuses, and secure gender-specific rights to athletes.
Caster Semenya, a South-African runner and Olympic champion, was dominating her favorite distance, the 800m, for a number of years, when in 2018 the World Athletics (then known as IAAF) adopted a new set of regulations (colloquially known as the DSD Regulations), which imposed new conditions to the eligibility of athletes for certain female competitions, such as the 800m. Semenya, who has a condition known as differences in sex development (DSD), was forced to decide between subjecting to a specific medical treatment aimed at diminishing the level of testosterone in her body or stopping competing on her preferred distance. As she refused to undergo any medical treatment to regain eligibility, she decided to challenge the legality of World Athletics DSD Regulations before the CAS in Lausanne. While the CAS acknowledged that the Regulations were discriminatory and were disregarding the legal sex of Semenya in the name of a so-called sporting sex, the arbitrators also considered that this discrimination was justified and proportionate. Semenya’s challenge against the award was rejected by the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) in August 2020. As a last resort, she decided to lodge an application with ECtHR against Switzerland.
On 11 July 2023, the ECtHR released its judgment in the much-awaited Caster Semenya v. Switzerland case. In short, the Strasbourg Court sided with Semenya and concluded that Switzerland failed to comply with its positive obligations stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling is an important milestone in the interaction between the CAS and (European) human rights law. It will likely affect the place of human rights (and in particular the ECHR) at the CAS, the intensity of the supervision exercised by the SFT, as well as the justification of the regulatory decisions of the SGBs. We look forward to discussing these with our two speakers, who have followed closely the case and already blogged (here and here) about the judgment:
The online discussion will be introduced and moderated by Dr. Antoine Duval and Dr. Daniela Heerdt, and will include short presentations by the speakers and a Q&A with the audience.
Registration is available for free at: https://www.asser.nl/education-events/events/?id=4325
Editor's note: Jeremy Abel
is a recent graduate of the LL.M in International Business Law and Sports of
the University of Lausanne.
South African athlete Caster Semenya is in the last lap of her long legal
battle for her right to run without changing the natural testosterone in her
body. After losing her cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
and the Swiss Federal Tribunal, she filed an application
before the European Court of Human Rights (Court). In the meantime, the Court
a summary of her complaint and a series of questions addressed to the parties
of the case.
As is well
known, she is challenging the World Athletics’ Eligibility
Regulations for the Female Classification (Regulations) defining the conditions under which female
and intersex athletes with certain types of differences of sex development
(DSDs) can compete in international athletics events. Despite the Regulations
emanating from World Athletics, the last round of her legal battle is against a
new opponent: Switzerland.
of this article is to revisit the Semenya case from a European
Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) perspective while considering certain
excellent points made by previous contributors (see here,
to this blog. Therefore, the blog will follow the basic structure of an ECHR
case. The following issues raised by Semenya shall be analysed: the applicability
of the ECHR, Semenya’s right to private life (Article 8 ECHR) and to non
discrimination (Article 14 ECHR), as well as the proportionality of the
Editor's note: Prof. Dr. Ekşi is a full-time lecturer and chair of
Department of Private International Law at Özyeğin University Faculty of Law.
Prof. Ekşi is the founder and also editor in chief of the Istanbul Journal
of Sports Law which has been in publication since 2019.
On Wednesday 26 May 2021 from 16.00-17.00 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), is organising its fifth Zoom In webinar on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
We have the pleasure to be joined by Prof. Helen Keller, former Judge at the ECtHR and a prominent dissenter to the majority’s ruling in the Mutu and Pechstein case.
The ECtHR decision
in the Mutu and Pechstein case rendered on 2 October 2018 is widely
seen as one of the most important European sports law rulings. It was
also the first decision of the Strasbourg court dealing with a case in
which the CAS had issued an award. The applicants, Adrian Mutu and
Claudia Pechstein, were both challenging the compatibility of CAS
proceedings with the procedural rights enshrined in Article 6(1) of the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The court famously declined
to conclude that the CAS lacked independence or impartiality, but did
find that, insofar as Claudia Pechstein was concerned, she was forced to
undergo CAS arbitration and, therefore, that CAS proceedings had to
fully comply with the procedural rights guaranteed in the ECHR. In
particular, the court held that the refusal by CAS to hold a public
hearing, in spite of Claudia Pechstein’s express request, was contrary
to Article 6(1) ECHR. Beyond this case, as highlighted by the recent
decision of Caster Semenya to submit an application
to the ECtHR, the decision opens the way for a more systematic
intervention of the Strasbourg court in assessing the human rights
compatibility of CAS awards and more broadly of the transnational sports
regulations imposed by international sports governing bodies.
Prof. Helen Keller will discuss with us the
implications of the ECtHR’s Mutu and Pechstein decision and the
potential for future interventions by the court in the realm of the lex sportiva.
The webinar will take the form of an interview followed by a short Q&A open to the digital public.
Please note the discussion will NOT be recorded and posted on our Youtube channel.
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
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
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.More...
My favourite speed skater (Full
disclosure: I have a thing for speed skaters bothering the ISU), Claudia
Pechstein, is back in the news! And not from the place I expected. While
all my attention was absorbed by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe (BVerfG
or German Constitutional Court), I should have looked to the European Court of
Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR). The Pechstein and Mutu joint cases were pending
for a long time (since 2010) and I did not anticipate
that the ECtHR would render its decision before the BVerfG. The decision released last
week (only available in French at this stage) looked at first like a renewed
vindication of the CAS (similar to the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) ruling
in the Pechstein case), and is being presented
like that by the CAS, but after careful reading of the judgment I believe this is rather
a pyrrhic victory for the status quo
at the CAS. As I will show, this ruling puts to rest an important debate
surrounding CAS arbitration since 20 years: CAS arbitration is (at least in its
much-used appeal format in disciplinary cases) forced arbitration. Furthermore,
stemming from this important acknowledgment is the recognition that CAS proceedings
must comply with Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention of Human
Rights (ECHR), in particular hearings must in principle be held in public and
decisions freely available to all. Finally, I will criticise the Court’s
finding that CAS complies with the requirements of independence and
impartiality imposed by Article 6 § 1 ECHR. I will not rehash the well-known facts of both cases, in order to
focus on the core findings of the decision. More...
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
Anti-doping whereabouts requirements declared
compatible with the athletes' right to privacy and family life
On 18 January 2018,
the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment with important consequences for the world of sport in
general and the anti-doping regime in particular. The Strasbourg-based court
was called upon to decide whether the anti-doping whereabouts system – which requires that a limited number of top elite
athletes provide their National Anti-Doping Organisation or International
Federation with regular information about their location, including identifying
for each day one specific 60-minute time slot where the athlete will be
available for testing at a pre-determined location – is compatible with the
athletes' right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their freedom of movement pursuant to Article 2
Protocol No. 4 of the Convention. The case was brought by the French cyclist
Jeannie Longo and five French athlete unions that had filed their application
on behalf of 99 professional handball, football, rugby, and basketball players.
that the whereabouts requirements clash with the athletes' right to private and
family life, the judges took the view that such a restriction is necessary in
order to protect the health of athletes and ensure a level playing field in
sports competitions. They held that ''the
reduction or removal of the relevant obligations would lead to an increase in
the dangers of doping for the health of sports professionals and of all those
who practise sports, and would be at odds with the European and international
consensus on the need for unannounced testing as part of doping control''. Accordingly,
the judges found no violation of Article 8 of the Convention and, in a similar
vein, ruled that Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention was not applicable
to the case.
Football stakeholders preparing to crack down on
agents' excessive fees
It has been a
record-breaking January transfer window with Premier League clubs having spent
an eye-watering £430 million on signing new acquisitions. These spiralling
transfer fees enable football agents, nowadays also called intermediaries, to
charge impressive sums for their services. However, this might soon no longer
be the case as the main stakeholders in European football are preparing to take
action. UEFA, FIFPro, the European Club Association and the European
Professional Football Leagues acknowledge in their joint resolution that the 2015 FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries failed to address serious concerns in relation to the
activities of intermediaries/agents. They recognise in broad terms that a more
effective regulatory framework is needed and call among other things for a
reasonable and proportionate cap on fees for intermediaries/agents, enhanced
transparency and accountability, or stronger provisions to protect minors.
The CAS award in Joseph Odartei Lamptey v. FIFA
On 15 January 2018,
FIFA published on its website an arbitral award delivered on 4 August 2017 by the Court of
Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the dispute between the
Ghanian football referee Joseph Odartei Lamptey and FIFA. The CAS sided with
FIFA and dismissed the appeal filed by Mr Lamptey against an earlier decision
of the FIFA Appeal Committee which (i) found him to have violated Article 69(1)
of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as he unlawfully influenced the 2018 World Cup
qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal that took place on 12
November 2016; (ii) as a consequence, banned him for life from taking part in
any football-related activity; and (iii) ordered the match in question to be
replayed. In reaching its conclusion, the CAS relied heavily on multiple
reports of irregular betting activities that significantly deviated from usual
market developments. More...