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

Fear and Loathing in Rio de Janeiro – Displacement and the Olympics by Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

‎Editor's Note: Ryan is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University, he defended his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in December 2015. His dissertation examined human rights violations caused by international sporting events, and how international sporting organisations may be held accountable for these violations.


On Sunday, August 21, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will end. The spotlight will dim not only on the athletes who return to their home countries to ply their trade in relative obscurity, but also on the country of Brazil.[1] Once the Games have ended, life will go ‘back to normal’, although for many residents of Rio de Janeiro, what is ‘normal’ is anything but. More...

Why we should stop focusing on Caster Semenya by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel)

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.  She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.

Over the past days, we have been flooded by media reports discussing the “Caster Semenya-case”, reports rapidly relayed in social networks. Since the debate has a distinct legal component and since almost every report appears to draw significantly from the legal background, I granted myself permission – as compensation so to speak - to publish a somewhat more personal, less legal, post than I usually would.

Let me make one thing clear from the outset – I am still ‘agnostic’ about the question of how to solve the issues surrounding the male versus female divide in sports. Each time I have been asked to write or speak on the subject, I have tried to stick to describing the legal situation and its implications. I do not have the miracle solution as to how to handle this infinitely complex issue. And I am not sure anyone can claim to hold that solution at this point. Like everyone, I am doing my research and trying to be humble enough to stay within the realm of my competences. More...

Sporting nationality and the Olympic Games: selected issues by Yann Hafner (University of Neuchâtel)

Editor’s note: Yann Hafner is a Phd researcher at the University of Neuchâtel specialized in sports and nationality issues. He is also Legal Affairs Manager at the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball. Yann is an editor of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog and has previously published on the blog on nationality conundrums at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil (see here).  

This contribution aims to decipher the relationship between sporting nationality and the Olympic Games. To this end, the author will first define sporting nationality and discuss athletes’ eligibility in national team in the context of the Olympic Games. Then, selected issues in relation with sporting nationality and the Olympic Games (with an emphasis on issues related to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games) will be investigated. More...

Regulating the human body in sports: Lessons learned from the Dutee Chand case - by Dr Marjolaine Viret & Emily Wisnosky

Editor's note: Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky are both editors of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog specialized in anti-doping matters, they are also involved in the World Anti-Doping Commentary project funded by the Swiss National Science Fund.


A remarkable aspect of the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was the stream of negative media reports portraying broad-scale public mistrust in sport, with the most prominent topic being the doping scandals in athletics and questions surrounding the participation of Russia.  

A different controversy, but one also directed at the credibility of sports, has exposed a few female Olympians to repeated, and at times rather intrusive, media scrutiny. In June 2016, it was reported that Indian track-and-field athlete Dutee Chand had qualified for the Rio Olympic Games by breaking the national record, thus to become the first Indian athlete to run the 100m at the Olympics since 1980. The attention that Dutee Chand’s qualification attracted within international media, however, was not related only to her outstanding results. It came as part of a medical, ethical and legal controversy that has existed for many years relating to ‘policing’ the male versus female divide in sports. Another athlete who has found herself in the midst of this controversy is South African runner Semenya Caster, whose participation in the Olympics has been the object of much conjecture.

The divide between male and female athletes forms the core of most sports’ competition rules, including athletics. The justification for this basic divide has rarely been questioned as such, but has been a matter for debate when it comes to handling atypical situations on both sides of the ‘dividing line’ ­ such as ‘transgender’ or ‘intersex’ athletes. A category of athletes that has, especially, been viewed as a challenge to the divide is composed of female athletes affected by ‘hyperandrogenism’, a health condition that results in naturally elevated androgen levels, including testosterone levels.

On 24 July 2015, a CAS panel rendered a decision involving Dutee Chand (“Dutee Chand” or “the Athlete”) that has fuelled the ongoing debate about the policies regulating hyperandrogenism in sport. Much has been reported in the media about the case: controversial issues include whether the CAS was the appropriate forum to assess these questions; whether the decision was appropriate, both on the merits and on the procedure; and what the consequences of the CAS award would be, for the parties, for athletics and for the sporting community at large.

Much like the current crisis surrounding doping in sports, the public attention on women with (proven or suspected) hyperandrogenism is driven by a concern that an athlete’s physiology – natural or artificially induced ­ could distort competition, destroying the ‘level playing field’ that supports the Olympic ideal. Both topics are also often brought back to the goal of protecting an athlete’s health. Parallels are further found in the strong reactions both topics evoke, and the steps taken by the regulating authorities to convince the public that everything in their power is being done to preserve a level playing field.

A less obvious but equally important point of comparison can be found in the issues both topics raise concerning the legal validity of decisions made by sports organizations, especially in a science-related context. This blog focuses on those more ‘legal’ aspects, through the prism of the decision of the CAS in the Dutee Chand matter and its legal implications. After touching briefly on the background of the case, we will comment on two aspects of the Chand award with respect to challenges in regulating hyperandrogenism in sport within the confines of the law: First from the viewpoint of a CAS panel called upon to evaluate the validity of a set of regulations, and second from the viewpoint of the sports organizations seeking to both adequately protect fairness in sport and to provide a legally valid (and effective) regulatory solution.[1]


International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – July 2016 - By Marine Montejo

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 have overlooked. 

The Headlines

The McLaren Report on Russia’s State Doping System

It is difficult not to start this monthly report without referring to the never-ending Russian doping investigation that is shaking the sporting world. On 18 July, the independent investigation on Sochi 2014 winter Olympics led by Prof. McLaren, a Canadian law professor, and requested by the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”), released its report. It confirmed evidence of widespread, State-sponsored doping in Russian sports and called for a full ban on the country from the next Rio Olympics. In response to the report, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) vowed to take the “toughest sanctions available”. However, and despite the race against time in the run-up to Rio 2016, the IOC delayed its decision for several days amid a WADA statement and several press articles calling for a ban of Russia from Rio Olympics. Meanwhile, it did open an investigation against Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, the head official who allegedly supervised the overall doping cover up and explored all possible legal actions against Russia. On 21 July, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rejected the appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes against the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) decisions to suspend All Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) from IAAF membership given the evidence of a state-sponsored doping system. As a consequence, Russian track and field athletes were also banned from Rio 2016 Olympics. With the IAAF welcoming this decision, one could think that nothing was standing in the way of a full Olympic ban for all Russian athletes. While some Russian athletes announced that they would appeal the CAS award to the Swiss Federal Court. Yelena Isinbayeva, the banned pole vault champion, even took it a step further by claiming that she would challenge the IAAF decision as far as the European Court of Human Rights. Yet, it is very improbable that any of these challenges be decided in time for the Rio Games.More...

Brexit and EU law: Beyond the Premier League (Part 2). By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. 

Part 2. EU competition law and sports funding

The first analysed impact of Brexit on sport was the one regarding EU internal market rules and free movement. However, all sport areas that are of interest to the European Union will be impacted by the result of the future Brexit negotiations. This second part of the blog will focus on EU competition law and the media sector as well as direct funding opportunities keeping in mind that if the UK reaches for an EEA type agreement competition law and state aid rules will remain applicable as much as the funding programs.  More...

With or without them? Russia’s state doping system and the Olympic fate of Russian athletes. By Antoine Duval, Kester Mekenkamp and Oskar van Maren

On Monday 18 July 2016, Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren presented the Independent Person Report to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), regarding the alleged Russian doping program surrounding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The report was expected to seriously threaten the participation of Russian Athletes to the rapidly approaching Rio Games, starting on 5 August. In the weekend prior to the report’s publishing, Reuters obtained a leaked letter drafted by the CEO’s of the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies, which according to the New York Times was backed by “antidoping officials from at least 10 nations— including those in the United States, Germany, Spain, Japan, Switzerland and Canada — and 20 athlete groups”, urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban all Russian athletes from the upcoming Olympics.



Brexit and EU law: Beyond the Premier League (Part 1). By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The result of the Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016 took the European Union (almost) by surprise. A lot has been said and written about the impact of the United Kingdom leaving the EU. As in all other areas, the British sport sector will also face the effects of the modification of the relationship between the EU and its (probable) former Member State, the UK. It is nearly impossible to foresee all consequences as the UK has not even triggered article 50 TFEU yet to officially start the exit negotiations. However, as the UK position toward the EU will change in any case, this two-part blog aims to examine the main practical implications of such an exit for the UK, but also for the EU, in relation to the actual application of EU law in sport and the EU sport policy.

Unless stated otherwise, the use of the terms Brexit in this blog should be understood as a complete exit of the UK from the European Union. This blog focus in particular on this worst case scenario and its consequences for UK sport. However, it is highly improbable that the future Brexit negotiations with the EU will end up without some kind of special agreement between the two parties the first of which being an EEA type of agreement with full access to the internal market and applicability of EU law. 

The first part of this blog will examined the consequences for UK sport in terms of access to the EU internal market and the applicability of free movement principles. The second part is focused on specific impacts with regard of others domain of EU law for professional and grassroots UK sport.  More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – June 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp

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

What a month June turned out to be. Waking up the morning after the 23rd, the results of the UK referendum on EU membership were final. The words of Mark Twain: “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today”, might provide the most apt description of the mood felt at the time.[1] The Leave campaign’s narrow victory has brought along tremendous economic, political and legal uncertainties for both the UK and the (other) Member States. To give but one example, with regard to the implications of Brexit on Europe’s most profiting football league, we recommend an older blog by Daniel Geey and Jonny Madill. More...

The EU State aid and sport saga: The Showdown

It’s been a long wait, but they’re finally here! On Monday, the European Commission released its decisions regarding State aid to seven Spanish professional football clubs (Real Madrid on two occasions) and five Dutch professional football clubs. The decisions mark the end of the formal investigations, which were opened in 2013. The Commission decided as follows: no State aid to PSV Eindhoven (1); compatible aid to the Dutch clubs FC Den Bosch, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen and Willem II (2); and incompatible aid granted to the Spanish football clubs Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Osasuna, Elche and Hércules (3). 

The recovery decisions in particular are truly historic. The rules on State aid have existed since the foundation of the European Economic Community in 1958, but it is the very first time that professional football clubs have been ordered to repay aid received from (local) public authorities.[1] In a way, these decisions complete a development set in motion with the Walrave and Koch ruling of 1974, where the CJEU held that professional sporting activity, and therefore also football, is subject to EU law. The landmark Bosman case of 1995 proved to be of great significance as regards free movement of (professional) athletes and the Meca-Medina case of 2006 settled that EU competition rules were equally applicable to the regulatory activity of sport. The fact that the first ever State aid recovery decision concerns major clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Valencia, give the decisions extra bite. Therefore, this blog post will focus primarily on the negative/recovery decisions[2], their consequences and the legal remedies available to the parties involved.[3] More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Blog Symposium: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. By Mike Morgan

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

Blog Symposium: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. By Mike Morgan

Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

Editor's note
Mike Morgan is the founding partner of Morgan Sports Law LLP. His practice is focused exclusively on the sports sector. He advises on regulatory and disciplinary issues and has particular experience advising on doping and corruption disputes.

Mike acted on behalf of National Olympic Committees at three of the last four Olympic Games and has represented other sports bodies, clubs and high profile athletes in proceedings before the High Court, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber, the American Arbitration Association and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.


I. Introduction

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”), the 2015 World Anti-Doping Agency Code (the 2015 Code), which came into effect on 1 January 2015,  is a “stronger, more robust tool that will protect the rights of the clean athletes[1]. Among the key themes of the revised Code, is the promise of “longer periods of Ineligibility for real cheats, and more flexibility in sanctioning in other specific circumstances[2].

While Article 10 of the 2015 Code unquestionably provides for longer periods of ineligibility, the validity of WADA’s claim that the harsher sanctions will be reserved for “real cheats” depends partly on how one defines the term “real cheat”, and partly on how the 2015 Code’s mechanisms for reducing sanctions are to be interpreted.

This blog reflects on the totality of the context from which the current sanctions regime arose.  That is important because Article 10 will have to be applied in a manner consistent with that context in mind if the 2015 Code is to become the tool promised by WADA and if it is to avoid the scrutiny of the courts.

II. Context

A.   Katrin Krabbe

In the lead up to the adoption of the first version of the WADA Code (the “2003 Code”), there was considerable debate as to what length of sanction could lawfully be imposed on an athlete for a first violation[3].

The decision finally to settle on a two-year ban for first offences was heavily influenced by the findings of the Munich Courts in the case of Katrin Krabbe, that a suspension exceeding two years was disproportionate[4]:

(a)           The Regional Court held that a two-year suspension imposed on an athlete for a first offence “represents the highest threshold admissible under fundamental rights and democratic principles”.[5]

(b)           The High Regional Court held that the three-year ban imposed by the IAAF “was excessive in respect of its objective. Such a rigid disciplinary measure as a sanction for a first sports offence is inappropriate and disproportionate”.[6]

And so it came to pass that a first violation under Article 10.2 of the 2003 Code would be punished with a two-year sanction. Various legal opinions procured by WADA between 2003 and 2008 affirmed the position that a two-year sanction for a first violation (1) was a significant incursion on the rights of the individual affected; and (2) was likely the limit of the severity that could be imposed in the absence of aggravating circumstances[7].

B.   Specified Substances

The 2003 Code proved somewhat inflexible, which resulted in two-year bans for unintentional and minor anti-doping rule violations. One of the starkest examples of that inflexibility arose in CAS OG 04/003 Torri Edwards v IAAF & USATF.

Edwards had consumed glucose powder that, unbeknownst to her, contained the stimulant nikethamide. A two-year ban was imposed on her on the basis that she could not meet the thresholds for “No Fault” and “No Significant Fault” and despite the fact that she had, in the words of the CAS panel, “conducted herself with honesty, integrity and character, and that she has not sought to gain any improper advantage or to ‘cheat’ in any way[8].

Ms Edwards’ case became a cause célèbre, leading the IAAF to lobby WADA to have nikethamide and other similar stimulants reclassified as Specified Substances. The then vice-president of the IAAF, Dr Arne Lungqvist explained as follows:

I asked Torri Edwards whether she would allow me to use her case as an example of the importance of making some sort of differentiation between those weak stimulants that you can get over the counter by accident, carelessness, negligence or whatever.  We are not after those who are negligent.

WADA acceded to the IAAF’s lobbying and downgraded nikethamide to the Specified Substance list in September 2005. The IAAF Council shortly thereafter reinstated Edwards to competition further to the doctrine of lex mitior. Following Edwards’ reinstatement, Dr Lungqvist explained as follows:

The IAAF wishes to see strong penalties for real cheats. This was a different case, […]  I did not feel comfortable when I had to defend the then-existing rules against her at the CAS hearing in Athens.

I judge that Torri has paid a high price for having inadvertently taken a particular substance at the 'wrong' time, shortly before [the reclassification] and from now on such an intake would result in a warning only. (Emphasis added)

Four years later, WADA went one step further and, with the introduction of the 2009 version of the WADA Code (the “2009 Code”), broadened the list of substances that would be categorised as Specified Substances, promisinglessened sanctions….where the athlete can establish that the substance involved was not intended to enhance performance” under Article 10.4[10].  

The aim was to avoid the likes of the Edwards case. Indeed, a number of cases determined under the 2009 Code which involved the same glucose brand that had landed Edwards with a two-year ban in 2004, resulted in periods of ineligibility ranging between 0 – 6 months[11].

C.   The rise and fall of “aggravating circumstances”

The primary themes of the 2009 Code were, according to WADA, “firmness and fairness”. “Fairness” was to be reflected by the broadening of the Specified Substance list, while “firmness” was intended to manifest itself through the concept of “aggravating circumstances[12].  

The presence of “aggravated circumstances” permitted Anti-Doping Organizations (“ADOs”) to increase periods of ineligibility beyond the standard two-year ban up to a maximum of four years[13].

A legal opinion commissioned by WADA in relation to the “aggravated circumstances” provisions (the “Third WADA Legal Opinion”) noted as follows[14]:

91. […] it is clear that the intention to enhance performance is not in and-of-itself an aggravating circumstance.

92. […] This provision makes it clear that cheating is an important element of the notion of aggravating circumstances. However, the mere fact of cheating alone is not sufficient. Additional elements are required.

93. The essence of the concept of aggravating circumstances is thus a qualified kind of cheating, which involves an additional element. (Emphasis added)

Not only, therefore, was actual cheating required to invoke the provision but there needed to be something more than the mere fact of cheating. Examples provided by the 2009 Code included being part of a doping scheme or using multiple prohibited substances[15]

The “aggravated circumstances” provision was rarely invoked and, when it was, it rarely resulted in the maximum increase[16]. That ultimately led to the removal of the “aggravated circumstances” provision from the 2015 Code and the introduction of standard four-year sanctions, explained as follows by WADA[17]:

There was a strong consensus among stakeholders, and in particular, Athletes, that intentional cheaters should be Ineligible for a period of four years.  Under the current Code, there is the opportunity for a four-year period of Ineligibility for an Adverse Analytical Finding if the Anti-Doping Organization can show “Aggravating Circumstances.” However, in the more than four years since that provision has been part of the Code, it has been rarely used. (Emphasis added)

The decision to double the standard two-year sanctions to four years may have surprised anyone who had ever read the Third WADA Legal Opinion, since that opinion had expressly cautioned as follows:

138. […] one should bear in mind that a four-year ban would most often put an end to an athlete’s (high level) career and thus be tantamount to a life ban. Therefore, an aggravated first offence could de facto be punished as harshly as numerous second offences (Article 10.7.1) and almost all third offences (Article 10.7.3).

139. This could raise problems if the ineligibility period were automatically of four years in the presence of aggravating circumstances. In reality, Art. 10.6 provides for an increased suspension of up to four years, which means that the adjudicating body is afforded sufficient flexibility to take into account all the circumstances to ensure that aggravating circumstances do not systematically result in a four-year period of ineligibility. (Emphasis added)

D.   Proportionality

The principle of proportionality plays an important role in the determination of sanctions applicable in doping matters. The principle pervades Swiss law[18], EU law[19] and general principles of (sports) law[20].  

The CAS itself has consistently measured sanctions imposed on athletes against the principle of proportionality both before the inception of the WADA Code and since.

(a)           Pre-WADA Code: the anti-doping rules of many sports prior to the creation of the WADA Code mandated fixed sanctions without the possibility of reductions. The CAS nevertheless sometimes reduced these sanctions on the basis they were not proportionate.[21]

(b)           Post-WADA Code: The WADA Code introduced mechanisms by which sanctions could be reduced or eliminated.  However, the CAS has made clear that the introduction of these mechanisms does not remove the obligation of disciplinary panels to measure the sanctions applied in any particular case against the principle of proportionality. In CAS 2005/A/830 Squizzato v. FINA, the CAS held that:

10.24 […] the Panel holds that the mere adoption of the WADA Code […] by a respective Federation does not force the conclusion that there is no other possibility for greater or less reduction a sanction than allowed by DC 10.5. The mere fact that regulations of a sport federation derive from the World Anti-Doping Code does not change the nature of these rules. They are still – like before – regulations of an association which cannot (directly or indirectly) replace fundamental and general legal principles like the doctrine of proportionality a priori for every thinkable case.

Though the 2015 Code asserts that it “has been drafted giving consideration to the principles of proportionality and human rights[22], that obviously does not mean that proportionality no longer plays a part in the assessment of sanctions for the same reasons propounded by the CAS in Squizzato. Indeed, the 2015 Code itself recognises that it “is intended to be applied in a manner which respects the principles of proportionality and human rights[23]. Moreover, the most recent CAS decisions in which the principle of proportionality was applied concerned the sanctioning regimes of the 2003 and 2009 Code, both of which mandated default sanctions of two years, not four years[24].  The principle of proportionality is, therefore, arguably even more relevant now than it previously was.

III. Comment

While the 2015 Code does have more mechanisms by which to modify the default sanctions than in previous versions of the WADA Code, that is partly because the default sanctions with regards to most of the violations have doubled[25]:


Default sanction under the 2015 Code for a first offence

Default sanction under the 2009 Code for a first offence

Presence of a Specified Substance (Art. 2.1)

Two years (Art. 10.2.2)


Two years (Art. 10.2.1)

Presence of a non-Specified Substance (Art. 2.1)

Four years (Art. 10.2.1)

Two years (Art. 10.2.1)

Use or Attempted Use of a Specified Substance (Art. 2.2)

Two years (Art. 10.2.2)

Two years (Art. 10.2.1)

Use or Attempted Use of a non-Specified Substance (Art. 2.2)

Four years (Art. 10.2.1)

Two years (Art. 10.2.1)

Evading, Refusing or Failing to Submit to Sample Collection (Art. 2.3)

Four years (Art. 10.3.1)

Two years (Art. 10.3.1)

Whereabouts Failures (Art. 2.4)

Two years (Art. 10.3.2)

One to two years (Art. 10.3.3)

Tampering or Attempted Tampering (Art. 2.5)

Four years (Art. 10.3.1)

Two years (Art. 10.3.1)

Possession of a Specified Substance (Art. 2.6)

Two years (Art. 10.2.2)

Two years (Art. 10.2.1)

Possession of a non-Specified Substance (Art. 2.6)

Four years (Art. 10.2.1)

Two years (Art. 10.2.1)

Trafficking or Attempted Trafficking (Art. 2.7)

Four years to life (Art. 10.3.3)

Four years to life (Art. 10.3.2)

Administration  or  Attempted  Administration (Art. 2.8)

Four years to life (Art. 10.3.3)

Four years to life (Art. 10.3.2)

Complicity (Art. 2.9)

Two to four years (Art. 10.3.4)

Elements of this violation previously formed part of the “Administration or Attempted Administration” violation.

Prohibited Association (Art. 2.10)

Two years (Art. 10.3.5)

This violation did not exist under the 2009 Code.


Athletes accused of committing a violation under Articles 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 or 2.6 are now in a position in which they are required to meet the Article 10.2 thresholds regarding “intent” simply to get them back to the two-year default sanctions that would have applied under previous versions of the Code[26].

If the 2015 Code is to become the tool promised by WADA and if it is to avoid or survive legal challenges, tribunals will need to ensure that their interpretations of the reduction mechanisms, such as those contained at Article 10.2, do not result in disproportionate sanctions.

The parameters within which the proportionality of a sanction falls to be measured were described as follows by the panel in CAS 2005/C/976 & 986 FIFA & WADA:

139. A long series of CAS decisions have developed the principle of proportionality in sport cases. This principle provides that the severity of a sanction must be proportionate to the offense committed. To be proportionate, the sanction must not exceed that which is reasonably required in the search of the justifiable aim. (Emphasis added)

The evaluation of whether a sanction is proportionate therefore begins with the identification of the “justifiable aim”. According to WADA, the increased sanctions were intended to target “intentional cheats”. That is echoed by the wording of Article 10.2.3 of the 2015 Code, which provides as follows:  

As used in Articles 10.2 and 10.3, the term “intentional” is meant to identify those Athletes who cheat. The term, therefore, requires that the athlete or other Person engaged in conduct which he or she knew constituted an anti-doping rule violation or knew that there was a significant risk that the conduct might constitute or result in an anti-doping rule violation and manifestly disregarded that risk [….] (Emphasis added)

The final sentence emphasised above is, arguably, open to interpretation.  However, the first line identifies the overarching aim of the provision – i.e. “the term ‘intentional’ is meant to identify those athletes who cheat”.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a “cheat” is a “person who behaves dishonestly in order to gain an advantage” and the act of “cheating” amounts to “a fraud or deception”.  A reasonable inference, therefore, is that athletes who “cheat” are athletes who have acted knowingly and dishonestly to gain an unfair advantage.

Article 10.2 cannot, therefore, be intended to punish careless athletes.  Bearing in mind the limits pronounced by the courts in Krabbe and bearing in mind the “justifiable aim”, any interpretation of the provision that would result in a four-year ban for nothing more than careless – or even reckless, but otherwise honest - conduct would risk inviting the sort of scrutiny exercised by the German courts in the Pechstein[27] and Krabbe cases.

Likewise, the interpretation of the other reduction mechanisms, such as Article 10.5 (“No Significant Fault or Negligence”), will require the same degree of pragmatism.  If the parameters for “No Significant Fault” were to be applied as strictly today as they were in the Edwards case, anti-doping would end up right back to where it was in 2004, when the Code’s sanctioning regime was perceived to be so inflexible that it had to be overhauled in 2009. Assuming that the aim of the 2015 Code is not to take 11 years’ worth of backward steps, tribunals will have to ensure that “No Significant Fault” is interpreted in a manner that fulfils WADA’s promise of “greater flexibility”, particularly in cases involving Specified Substances and Contaminated Products[28].

IV. Concluding Remark

The 2015 Code has the potential to become the fairest WADA Code to date. However, it also has the potential to be the cruelest. Interpreting it in a manner consistent with the totality of the context from which it was conceived is the surest way to ensure that the right version prevails.



[3] See (1); and (2)

[4] See Kaufmann-Kohler, G., Rigozzi, A., and Malinverni, G., “Doping and fundamental rights of athletes: comments in the wake of the adoption of the World Anti-Doping Code”, I.S.L.R. 2003, 3(Aug), 39–67 *61

[5] Krabbe v. IAAF et. al., Decision of the LG Munich of 17 May 1995, SpuRt 1995 p. 161, p. 167

[6] Krabbe v. IAAF et. al., Decision of the OLG Munich of 28 March 1996, SpuRt 1996 p. 133, 138

[7] See (1) Legal Opinion on the Conformity of Certain Provisions of the Draft World Anti-Doping Code with Commonly Accepted Principles of International Law, dated 23 February 2003, paragraphs 142 and 143; (2) Legal Opinion on whether Article 10.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code is compatible with the Fundamental Principles of Swiss Domestic Law, dated 25 October 2005, paragraph 3 (b) (aa) at page 26 and paragraph 3. (f) (aa) at page 32; and (3) Legal Opinion on the Conformity of Article 10.6 of the 2007 Draft World Anti-Doping Code with the Fundamental Rights of Athletes, dated 13 November 2007, at paragraphs 33, 114, 138 and 139

[8] See paragraph 5.8 of CAS OG 04/003 Torri Edwards v IAAF & USATF

[9] See IAAF press release dated 22 November 2005

[10] 2009 Code, Article 10.4 (“Elimination or Reduction of the Period of Ineligibility for Specified Substances under Specific Circumstances”)

[11] See (1) CAS 2011/A/2493 Antidoping Switzerland v/ X; (2) CAS 2013/A/3327 Marin Cilic v. International Tennis Federation & CAS 2013/A/3335 International Tennis Federation v. Marin Cilic; (3) AFLD Decision No. 2011-71 dated 7 July 2011; (4) AFLD Decision No. 2009-50 dated 10 December 2009

[12] Article 10.6 of the 2009 WADA Code (Aggravating Circumstances Which May Increase the Period of Ineligibility)

[13] Note that Violations under Articles 2.7 (Trafficking) and 2.8 (Administration) were not subject to the application of Article 10.6 since the sanctions for those violations (four years to life) already allowed discretion for aggravating circumstances

[14] Legal Opinion on the Conformity of Article 10.6 of the 2007 Draft World Anti-Doping Code with the Fundamental Rights of Athletes, dated 13 November 2007

[15] See commentary to Article 10.6 of the 2009 Code

[16] See CAS 2013/A/3080 Alemitu Bekele Degfa v. TAF and lAAF for a detailed assessment by the CAS of the “aggravated circumstances” provision

[17] WADA, Significant Changes between the 2009 Code and the 2015 Code, Version 4.0, 1 September 2013

[18] See paragraph 124 of CAS 2005/C/976 & 986 FIFA & WADA

[19] See paragraphs 47 and 48 of Case C-519/04 P Meca-Medina & Majcen v Commission [2006] ECR I-6991

[20] See paragraph 83 of the First WADA Legal Opinion

[21] See (1) CAS 1996/56 Foschi v. FINA; (2) CAS 2002/A/396 Baxter v. FIS; (3) CAS 2001/A/337 B. / FINA

[22] See page 11 of the 2015 Code - “Purpose, Scope and Organization of the World Anti-Doping Program and the Code

[23] See the Introduction at page 17 of the 2015 Code

[24] See, for instance (1) CAS 2010/A/2268 I. v. FIA; and (2) TAS 2007/A/1252 FINA c. O. Mellouli & FTN

[25] Note that the table only reflects the default sanctions applicable before consideration of any of the mechanisms intended to increase or decrease those sanctions

[26] Note that article 10.2 only applies to those violations. For a detailed assessment of Article 10.2, see Rigozzi, Antonio and Haas, Ulrich and Wisnosky, Emily and Viret, Marjolaine, Breaking Down the Process for Determining a Basic Sanction Under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code (June 10, 2015). ISLJ, (2015) 15:3-48

[27] See (1) Landesgericht (LG) München, 26. February 2014, 37 O 28331/12; and (2) Oberlandesgericht (OLG) München, 15 January 2015, Az. U 1110/14 Kart

[28] Notably, the concept of “No Significant Fault or Negligence” in previous versions of the Code was limited to ‘‘exceptional circumstances’’. That limitation has been removed in the context of Specified Substances and Contaminated Products under Article 10.5.1 of the 2015 Code. Thus, it should now be easier for athletes to trigger the application of “No Significant Fault” in those types of cases than it previously was. See Section 6.2 of Rigozzi et al for a detailed discussion of the point

Comments are closed