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

12th round of Caster Semenya’s legal fight: too close to call? - By Jeremy Abel

Editor's note: Jeremy Abel is a recent graduate of the LL.M in International Business Law and Sports of the University of Lausanne.

 

1.     Introduction

The famous 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 has released 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.

The purpose 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, here and 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 Regulations. More...


[Conference] Towards a European Social Charter for Sport Events - 1 December - 13:00-17:00 - Asser Institute

Sport events, especially when they are of a global scale, have been facing more and more questions about their impact on local communities, the environment, and human rights. 

It has become clear that their social legitimacy is not a given, but must be earned by showing that sport events can positively contribute to society. During this half-day conference, we will debate the proposal of a European Social Charter for Sport Events in order to achieve this goal. 

In January 2021, a consortium of eight partners launched a three-year project, supported by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ scheme, aimed at devising a European Social Charter for Sport Events (ESCSE). The project ambitions to develop a Charter which will contribute to ensuring that sport events taking place in the European Union are socially beneficial to the local communities concerned and, more generally, to those affected by them. The project is directly inspired by the decision of the Paris 2024 bid to commit to a social charter enforced throughout the preparation and the course of the 2024 Olympics.

This first public event in the framework of the ESCSE project, will be introducing the project to a wider public. During the event we will review the current state of the implementation of the Paris 2024 Social Charter, discuss the expectations of stakeholders and academics for a European Social Charter and present for feedback the first draft of the ESCSE (and its implementing guidelines) developed by the project members. It will be a participatory event; we welcome input from the participants.

The Asser International Sports Law Centre, powered by the Asser Institute, is contributing to the project through the drafting of a background study, which we will introduce during the conference.

Please note that we can provide some financial support (up to 100 euros)  towards travel and/or accommodation costs for a limited number of participants coming from other EU Member States or the UK. To apply for this financial support please reach out to ConferenceManager@asser.nl.  `

Register HERE

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New Event! Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Time for a Changing of the Guard? - Zoom In Webinar - 14 October - 4pm

On Thursday 14 October 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret (University of Lausanne), will be launching the second season of the Zoom-In webinar series, with a first episode on Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: Time for a Changing of the Guard?

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is a well-known mainstay of global sport. It has the exclusive competence over challenges against decisions taken by most international sports governing bodies and its jurisprudence covers a wide range of issues (doping, corruption, match-fixing, financial fair play, transfer or selection disputes) including disciplinary sanctions and governance disputes. In recent years, the CAS has rendered numerous awards which triggered world-wide public interest, such as in the Semenya v World Athletics case or the case between WADA and RUSADA resulting from the Russian doping scandal (we discussed both cases in previous Zoom-In discussion available here and here). In short, the CAS has tremendous influence on the shape of global sport and its governance.

However, as we will discuss during this webinar, recent work has shown that the arbitrators active at the CAS are hardly reflective of the diversity of people its decisions ultimately affect. This in our view warrants raising the question of the (urgent) need to change the (arbitral) guard at the CAS. To address these issues with us, we have invited two speakers who have played an instrumental role in putting numbers on impressions widely shared by those in contact with the CAS: Prof. Johan Lindholm (Umea University) and attorney-at-law Lisa Lazarus (Morgan Sports Law). Johan recently published a ground-breaking monograph on The Court of Arbitration for Sport and Its Jurisprudence in which he applies empirical and quantitative methods to analyse the work of the CAS. This included studying the sociological characteristics of CAS arbitrators. Lisa and her colleagues at Morgan Sports Law very recently released a blog post on Arbitrator Diversity at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reveals a stunning lack of diversity (based on their calculations, 4,5% of appointed CAS arbitrators are female and 0,2% are black) at the institution ruling over global sport.


Guest speakers:


Moderators:


Register for free HERE.


Zoom In webinar series

In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch the video recordings of our past Zoom In webinars on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel.

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 2: The Multiple Layers of Multi-Club Ownership Regulation in Football - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys was an intern at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. He now advises on investments and Notre acquisitions in sport (mainly football) via Lovelle Street Advisory. Following a career as a professional athlete, Rhys has spent much of his professional life as an international sports agent, predominantly operating in football. Rhys has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and a Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Dame, Sydney, Australia. He is currently completing an LL.M at the University of Zurich in International Business Law / International Sports Law.


Having looked at the different types of investors in football in part one of this two-part blog series, “A non-exhaustive Typology”, it is fitting to now consider the regulations that apply to investors who seek to build a portfolio of football clubs.

One way to measure the momentum of a particular practice and how serious it ought to be taken, might be when that practice earns its own initialism. Multi-club ownership or MCO as it is increasingly known today, is the name given to those entities that have an ownership stake in multiple clubs. Within the little research and writing that has been undertaken on the topic, some authors submit that investors with minority stakes in multiple clubs ought not to be captured by the MCO definition.  This position appears problematic given some of the regulations draw the line at influence rather than stake.

There are now approximately 50 MCO’s across the football world that own approximately 150 clubs.[1] Given the way MCO is trending, one might consider it important that the regulations keep up with the developing MCO practice, so as to ensure the integrity of football competitions, and to regulate any other potentially questionable benefit an MCO might derive that would be contrary to football’s best interests.

In this blog, I focus on the variety of ways (and levels at which) this practice is being regulated.  I will move through the football pyramid from member associations (MA’s) to FIFA, laying the foundations to support a proposition that FIFA and only FIFA is positioned to regulate MCO. More...


New Event! Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the Right to Free Speech of Athletes - Zoom In Webinar - 14 July - 16:00 (CET)

On Wednesday 14 July 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organizing a Zoom In webinar on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the right to free speech of athletes.

As the Tokyo Olympics are drawing closer, the International Olympic Committee just released new Guidelines on the implementation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. The latter Rule provides that ‘no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas’. The latest IOC Guidelines did open up some space for athletes to express their political views, but at the same time continue to ban any manifestation from the Olympic Village or the Podium. In effect, Rule 50 imposes private restrictions on the freedom of expression of athletes in the name of the political neutrality of international sport. This limitation on the rights of athletes is far from uncontroversial and raises intricate questions regarding its legitimacy, proportionality and ultimately compatibility with human rights standards (such as with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

This webinar aims at critically engaging with Rule 50 and its compatibility with the fundamental rights of athletes. We will discuss the content of the latest IOC Guidelines regarding Rule 50, the potential justifications for such a Rule, and the alternatives to its restrictions. To do so, we will be joined by three speakers, Professor Mark James from Manchester Metropolitan University, who has widely published on the Olympic Games and transnational law; Chui Ling Goh, a Doctoral Researcher at Melbourne Law School, who has recently released an (open access) draft of an article on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter; and David Grevemberg, Chief Innovation and Partnerships Officer at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, and former Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). 

Guest speakers:

  • Prof. Mark James (Metropolitan Manchester University)
  • Chui Ling Goh (PhD candidate, University of Melbourne)
  • David Grevemberg (Centre for Sport and Human Rights)

Moderators:


Free Registration HERE

Investment in Football as a Means to a Particular End – Part 1: A non-exhaustive Typology - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor's note: Rhys is currently making research and writing contributions under Dr Antoine Duval at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law. Additionally, Rhys is the ‘Head of Advisory’ of Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets.

Rhys has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. Rhys is an LL.M candidate at the University of Zurich, in International Sports Law. Following a career as a professional athlete, Rhys has spent much of his professional life as an international sports agent, predominantly operating in football.

Rhys is also the host of the podcast “Sportonomic”.


Introduction

In the following two-part blog series, I will start by outlining a short typology of investors in football in recent years, in order to show the emergence of different varieties of investors who seek to use football as a means to a particular end. I will then in a second blog, explore the regulatory landscape across different countries, with a particular focus on the regulatory approach to multi-club ownership. Before moving forward, I must offer a disclaimer of sorts.  In addition to my research and writing contributions with the Asser Institute, I am the ‘Head of Advisory’ for Athlon CIF, a global fund and capital advisory firm specialising in the investment in global sports organisations and sports assets. I appreciate and hence must flag that I will possess a bias when it comes to investment in football.

It might also be noteworthy to point out that this new wave of investment in sport, is not exclusive to football. I have recently written elsewhere about CVC Capital Partners’ US$300 million investment in Volleyball, and perhaps the message that lingers behind such a deal.  CVC has also shown an interest in rugby and recently acquired a 14.3 per cent stake in the ‘Six Nations Championship’, to the tune of £365 million.  New Zealand’s 26 provincial rugby unions recently voted unanimously in favour of a proposal to sell 12.5 per cent of NZ Rugby’s commercial rights to Silver Lake Partners for NZ$387.5 million.  Consider also the apparent partnership between star footballer’s investment group, Gerard Pique’s Kosmos, and the International Tennis Federation.  Kosmos is further backed by Hiroshi Mikitani’s ecommerce institution, Rakuten, and all involved claim to desire an overhaul of the Davis Cup that will apparently transform it into the ‘World Cup of Tennis’. Grassroots projects, prizemoney for tennis players and extra funding for member nations are other areas the partnership claims to be concerned with. As is the case with all investment plays of this flavour, one can be certain that a return on the capital injection is also of interest.

So, what are we to conclude from the trends of investment in sport and more specifically for this blog series, in football? A typology elucidates that a multiplicity of investors have in recent years identified football as a means to achieve different ends. This blog considers three particular objectives pursued; direct financial return, branding in the case of company investment, or the branding and soft power strategies of nations.More...



WISLaw Blog Symposium - Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter: the wind of changes or a new commercial race - By Rusa Agafonova

Editor's note: Rusa Agafonova is a PhD Candidate at the University of Zurich, Switzerland   

The Olympic Games are the cornerstone event of the Olympic Movement as a socio-cultural phenomenon as well as the engine of its economic model. Having worldwide exposure,[1] the Olympic Games guarantee the International Olympic Committee (IOC) exclusive nine-digit sponsorship deals. The revenue generated by the Games is later redistributed by the IOC down the sports pyramid to the International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and other participants of the Olympic Movement through a so-called "solidarity mechanism". In other words, the Games constitute a vital source of financing for the Olympic Movement.

Because of the money involved, the IOC is protective when it comes to staging the Olympics. This is notably so with respect to ambush marketing which can have detrimental economic impact for sports governing bodies (SGBs) running mega-events. The IOC's definition of ambush marketing covers any intentional and non-intentional use of intellectual property associated with the Olympic Games as well as the misappropriation of images associated with them without authorisation from the IOC and the organising committee.[2] This definition is broad as are the IOC's anti-ambush rules.More...

WISLaw Blog Symposium - Freedom of Expression in Article 10 of the ECHR and Rule 50 of the IOC Charter: Are these polar opposites? - By Nuray Ekşi

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.


While Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) secures the right to freedom of expression, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter of 17 July 2020 (‘Olympic Charter’) restricts this freedom. Following the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) relating to sports, national and international sports federations have incorporated human rights-related provisions into their statutes and regulations. They also emphasized respect for human rights. For example, Article 3 of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (‘FIFA’) Statutes, September 2020 edition, provides that “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights”. Likewise, the Fundamental Principles of Olympism which are listed after the Preamble of the of the Olympic Charter 2020 also contains human rights related provisions. Paragraph 4 of Fundamental Principles of Olympism provides that the practice of sport is a human right. Paragraph 6 forbids discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. In addition, the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) inserted human rights obligations in the 2024 and 2028 Host City Contract.[1] The IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration even goes further and aspires to promote the ability and opportunity of athletes to practise sport and compete without being subject to discrimination. Fair and equal gender representation, privacy including protection of personal information, freedom of expression, due process including the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial panel, the right to request a public hearing and the right to an effective remedy are the other human rights and principles stated in the IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Despite sports federations’ clear commitment to the protection of human rights, it is arguable that their statutes and regulations contain restrictions on athletes and sports governing bodies exercising their human rights during competitions or in the field. In this regard, particular attention should be given to the right to freedom of expression on which certain restrictions are imposed by the federations even if it done with good intentions and with the aim of raising awareness. More...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Caster Semenya’s Legal Battle Against Gender Stereotypes: On Nature, Law and Identity - By Sofia Balzaretti (University of Fribourg)

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

Caster Semenya’s Legal Battle Against Gender Stereotypes: On Nature, Law and Identity - By Sofia Balzaretti (University of Fribourg)

Editor's note: Sofia Balzaretti is a Graduate research assistant and a PhD candidate at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) where she is writing a thesis on the Protection against Gender Stereotypes in International Law. In addition to research in human rights and feminist legal theory, she has also carried out some research in legal philosophy and on the relationship between gender and the law.

 

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the monitoring body of track and field athletics, regularly submitted South African middle distance runner and Olympic gold medalist Mokgadi Caster Semenya to sex verification tests when it began questioning her sexual characteristics and speculating whether her body belonged on the Disorder of Sex Development (DSD) spectrum. DSD Syndrome is often defined as an “intersex condition” which affects the clear development of either/or genitalia, gonads and chromosomes into one distinctive sex or another. The spectrum of the intersex condition is particularly wide, and the disorder can sometimes be minimal - some cases of female infertility can actually be explained by an intersex condition.

The IAAF deemed the controversial sex verification tests necessary on the grounds that it was required to prove Semenya did not have a “medical condition” which could give her an “unfair advantage”. It was eventually found that, because of an intersex trait, Semenya did have abnormally high levels of testosterone for a woman, which, in the IAAF’s opinion, justified a need for regulatory hormonal adjustments in order for her to keep competing in the women’s category. The IAAF also funded research to determine how ‘hyperandrogenism’ affects athletic performance. In 2018, it issued Eligibility Regulations on Female Classification (“Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development”) for events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m and 1’500m. The IAAF rules indicated that in case of an existing high level of testosterone, suppression or regulation by chemotherapy, hormonal castration, and/or iatrogenic irradiation was mandatory in order to take part in these events.

Semenya and her lawyers challenged the IAAF Regulations in front of the CAS, who, in a very controversial decision, deemed the Regulations a necessary, reasonable and proportionate mean “of achieving the aim of what is described as the integrity of female athletics and for the upholding of the ‘protected class’ of female athletes in certain events” (§626).


The CAS Ruling

Semenya and her attorneys claimed that forcing her to get unwanted medication represented a violation of human rights. On the 1st May 2019, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of the restrictions placed on female athletes with high levels of testosterone by the IAAF. The direct consequence of this decision for Semenya was the obligation for her to take testosterone suppressants in order to continue competing in her category of IAAF events.

In March 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a resolution indicating the IAAF Regulations were “not compatible with international human rights norms and standards, including the rights of women with differences of sex development” and that there was “no clear relationship of proportionality between the aim of the regulations and the proposed measures and their impact.”

Because the Regulations established conditions and restrictions which were targeted at the female (or intersex) athlete population exclusively and did not impose any equivalent conditions or restrictions on male athletes, the CAS Panel considered that the Regulations were, prima facie discriminatory on grounds of legal sex. After reminding that “it is common ground that a rule that imposes differential treatment on the basis of a particular protected characteristic is valid and lawful if it is a necessary, reasonable and a proportionate means of attaining a legitimate objective” (§548), the Panel considered that its sole responsibility was to determine whether the DSD Regulations were necessary, reasonable and proportionate. As such, the Panel said it was “not required to (…) appraise the adequacy of the IAAF’s policy-making process”.


The Swiss Federal Tribunal and ordre public

A decision from the CAS can only be challenged at the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) on a limited number of grounds, enclosed in art. 190 al. 2 of the Federal Act on Private International Law (PILA), which include claiming that the principle of equal treatment of the parties or their right to be heard in an adversarial procedure has not been observed (lit. d) and that the award is incompatible with public policy (lit. e). At the beginning of June 2019, after an ex parte request, the SFT, Switzerland’s highest court, granted Semenya a temporary suspension of the IAAF rules on testosterone limits. She was able to compete over distances of 400 to 1’500m without medication, until the SFT issued a ruling.

Because it was considered that the discrimination was necessary, reasonable and proportionate in comparison with the vast majority of non-DSD women, the only outcome for Semenya’s lawyers was to argue on the violation of the principle of public order. The 30th July 2019, the SFT reversed the ruling that temporarily lifted the application of the IAAF’s regulations, thus impeding her to defend her 800m title at the World Championships in Doha in September 2019. The SFT concluded that “neither the allegation of an infringement of the principle of non-discrimination, nor the alleged violation of ordre public due to an infringement of their personality and human dignity appeared with high probability to be well founded”. Welcoming the decision, the IAAF stated that, in certain particular cases, “biology trumps identity”.


The elements of comparison
Body Policing

Admitting that “the imperfect alignment between nature, law and identity is what gives rise to the conundrum at the heart of this case” (§559), the CAS stated that:

“On true analysis, (…) the purpose of the male-female divide in competitive athletics is not to protect athletes with a female legal sex from having to compete against athletes with a male legal sex. Nor is it to protect athletes with a female gender identity from having to compete against athletes with a male gender identity. Rather, it is to protect individuals whose bodies have developed in a certain way following puberty from having to compete against individuals who, by virtue of their bodies having developed in a different way following puberty, possess certain physical traits that create such a significant performance advantage that fair competition between the two groups is not possible.”

The public opinion could not help but point the finger at the underlying hypocrisy of the decision, in comparison with similar cases, both inside and outside of the sports world. Firstly, the same type of policy and legal arguments are often held for controlling certain types of bodies exclusively, whilst leaving others out of the line of sight. In the sports world, it is certainly the case: think of the impressive decoration of Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps aligned with the god-like praises he received for his physical strength and capacity; for instance. On the contrary, leaving “abnormally” tall basket-ball players on the bench so as to give naturally shorter players a chance to win, or testing male athletes with poor athletic results in suspicion they might have low levels of testosterone seems absurd. In fact, the latter are only tested as to make sure they do not take anything effectively modifying their capacities in competing. Semenya and her lawyers did point to the fact that “it is illogical and unnecessary to regulate one genetic trait while celebrating all the others” (CAS decision, §53).

Out of the sports world, indications of “naturalness” in pro-life arguments or governments’ refusal to medically cover the suppression of hormones in transgender reassignment cases are also examples of body policing. The case therefore raises the central question of how stereotypes, especially gender ones, give a social meaning to a fact and how legal regulation can confirm it, thus perpetuating it.

The social  meaning of women and gender

Taking a step away from Semenya’s cause célèbre, it must be stressed that, for long, women were not accepted to compete in the Olympics and that their progressive integration was only made possible when a redefinition of the norms of femininity and masculinity, as they relate to sports and competition, occurred. This means that medical tests were carried out and, as a backlash to noticing the instability and fluidity of sex categories, those very categories were reinforced and redefined according to stereotypes. In other words, the sports world went very far to ensure there was a biological difference so that the natural and social order as it was could not be disrupted.

If we try to move away from the (in my opinion, sterile) debate on biological differences (remembering that the latter has also been explained by anthropologists as being a consequence of our gendered social order[1]), we should ask ourselves who has the power to define the norms of femininity and masculinity. “Woman” and “man” have very particular social meanings. Furthermore, commentators often qualify the sex verification tests as being racially flawed. In this sense, the discussion is also of epistemological importance: the bonus corpus is never the female body, and is always the white male one, with “naturally” good athletic abilities. True, scientific results are usually dependent on a certain political order[2], as are any other empirical social-situated findings. The CAS Panel said that an assessment of the likely impact of the DSD Regulations on wider society would require “an analysis of multifaceted sociological issues which are not amenable to judicial resolution by an arbitral tribunal (…)” (§518). And, as such, it is certainly not for an arbitration court to have the power to (re)define gender categories, which are intrinsically political and historical, and are not limited to the sports world.


Appealing to the ECtHR

If she does not prevail before the SFT, Semenya could still appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging a breach of Article 14 and/or Article 8[3]. It may give the Strasbourg Court an interesting opportunity to comment on gender opposition and binarity, as well as on the social limitations put on gendered bodies. The gender stereotypes discussion is not a new one; regional and international courts have had the opportunity, on many occasions, to comment on the need to combat harmful gender stereotypes[4]. However, they usually do so in relation to human rights law and to the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Even if, of course, not every unjustified discrimination is rooted in stereotypes[5], they seldom point at the wrong of gender stereotypes per se. Hopefully this may lead the ECtHR to further reflect on the harmfulness of gender stereotypes, beyond the well-established categories in need of protection against unjustified discrimination.

The CAS practically said that it was bound by biology. If anything, the results of the sex verification tests should have proven that Semenya’s body has incredible athletic abilities, with no requirements of medically modifying it whatsoever.


Conclusion

In a letter to the IAAF about their regulations, United Nations experts on health, torture, and women’s rights wrote:

“The assessment for ‘exclusion or treatment’ based on the IAAF regulations relies on suspicion and speculation, based on stereotypes about femininity. This effectively legitimizes widespread surveillance of all women athletes by requesting national federations as well as doctors, doping officials, and other official personnel to scrutinize women athletes’ perceived femininity, which can include appearance, gender expression, and sexuality. Women who are understood to be “suspicious” about their natural physical traits are tied to subjective and cultural expectations regarding which bodies and modes of gender expression are “appropriate,” or even valorised by adherence to traditional or normative aesthetics of femininity. Gender and sex-based stereotyping and stigma have a long history, not only of causing psychological harm to women and gender minorities, but also of increasing the possibility of violence against them.”

The social norms of gender act as a blur on reality, based on the stereotype that “a real woman” should not be that good of an athlete. It provides us with an overview of how public policy decisions are justified by scientific findings, operating in a gender-normative environment. The discrimination was considered “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” in comparison with the vast majority of non-DSD women, but it somehow appears to be a debate on the equality between women and men and on reaffirming the importance of the “fixed duality of sexual difference”[6]. The CAS Panel said that it was “faced with conflicting rights concerning the rights of female athletes who do, and do not, have DSD” (§554).

Interestingly enough, the more women are compared to each other, on the grounds of fairness, the stronger the female gender category is reinforced.


[1] Priscilla Touraille, Hommes grands, femmes petites : une évolution coûteuse. Les régimes de genre comme force sélective de l’évolution biologique, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme: Paris 2008.

[2] Thomas Laqueur, La Fabrique du Sexe: Essai sur le corps et le genre en Occident, Gallimard: Paris 1992.

[3] The ECtHR had considered an application brought following an unsuccessful appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal in the October 2018 decision ECtHR, Mutu and Pechstein v Switzerland, applications no. 40575/10 and no. 67474/10, ECLI:CE:ECHR:2018:1002JUD004057510, alleging breaches of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

[4] The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has broadly defined the notion of “harmful gender stereotypes”, as sexist beliefs, which include representing women in roles considered traditional; as mothers and household heads, as subordinates of men or as sexual objects. In 2013, the OHCHR prepared a report on sex and gender stereotypes, which outlines the practice of treaty bodies and their reference to gender stereotypes. The obligations of States with regard to stereotypes are those set out in Article 5 lit. a CEDAW, reinforced by Article 2 lit. f. which provides that States must “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women”. At European level, judgments of the ECtHR have concerned stereotypes related in particular to sexuality (Kalucza v. Hungary), reproduction (A. B. C. v. Ireland; R. R. v. Poland) or domestic violence (Valiuliené v. Lithuania; Opuz v. Turkey). See also Konstantin Markin v. Russia; Carvalho Pinto de Sousa Morais v. Portugal; Khamtokhu and Aksenchick v. Russia.

[5] Sophia Moreau, ‘Equality Rights and Stereotypes’ in Dyzenhaus, D./ Thorburn, M. (eds.), Philosophical Foundations of Constitutional Law, Oxford University Press : Oxford 2019.

[6] Hilary Charlesworth, ‘Foreword’, in Harris Rimmer S./Ogg K., Feminist Engagement with International Law, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham 2019.

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