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  `

Register HERE



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:


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)


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”.


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 | Chess and Doping: Two ships passing in the Night? By Salomeja Zaksaite, Postdoctoral researcher at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania), and Woman International Chess Master (WIM)

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

Chess and Doping: Two ships passing in the Night? By Salomeja Zaksaite, Postdoctoral researcher at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania), and Woman International Chess Master (WIM)

It may come as a surprise to laymen, but chess players are subjected to doping testing. Naturally, then, the questions follow as to why they are tested, and if they are really tested (at least, with a level of scrutiny comparable to that which physically-oriented athletes are regularly subjected).

The answer to the first question is two-fold. There is an “official” answer and a “pragmatic” answer. Regarding the ostensible one, rather typical doping terminology is employed: certain substances might enhance performance in chess, and thus, they are prohibited. A layperson might ask: “what substances are these?” One fair guess could be beta-blockers – those medications which help reduce heart rates in times of anxiety and thus contribute to clearer thinking, and which are prohibited inter alia in shooting. That sounds pretty sensible; however (mainly due of the lack of scientific evidence on the actual performance enhancing), beta-blockers are not prohibited in chess.[1] As far as I know, chess players do not use beta-blockers, and I cannot imagine that they ever actually will use them to enhance their performance. Nor do chess players use anabolics, EPO, growth hormones – or any other of the “classical” doping substances. What might be an issue is caffeine because of its stimulant properties, but it was excluded from the list of prohibited substances in 2004.[2]

So what are the substances chess players do use? The reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen drinks freshly squeezed orange juice and many top players drink either water or coffee, or both… This is “doping” for chess players. The aforementioned champion was tested several times and said that “there is not so much point of drugs testing in chess, I must admit. However, if I must, then I must.”[3] In 2008 Dresden Chess Olympiad, Vassily Ivanchuk refused to participate in a doping control and actually no penalties were applied as the whole chess community defended him. The official FIDE (World Chess Federation) statement was that he “apparently failed to understand the instructions, especially since English is not Mr. Ivanchuk’s first language.”[4] Such a “flexible” formulation employed by FIDE suggests that the anti-doping system hardly has a real deterrent effect on elite chess players.

Returning to the legal discourse, we should pose some fundamental questions originally coming from the jurisprudence of European Court of Human Rights. These questions read as follows: Is the anti-doping system restrictive, and is the restrictiveness proportionate to the aim that is being sought to achieve? The answer to the first question is positive: the doping system is undoubtedly restrictive. Testing might not only be unpleasant, but also, some accidental factors must be taken into account, and additional time is needed to grasp the medical instructions in order not to trigger a positive test because of some inadvertently taken substances. Most people might not know it, but ephedrine and its form pseudoephedrine[5] (used to treat nasal and sinus congestion and available as the well-known medicine Theraflu) are prohibited, as is heptaminol [6] which falls into Ginkorfort and/or other herbal products. These medicines are sold in pharmacy without a prescription. So, all the athletes – including chess players – should avoid such substances in-competition and some period before the competition. For instance, although the swimmer Frédérick Bousquet stated that he bought the incriminated medicine from a pharmacy, he was tested positive for the heptaminol in 2010, and handed a two month doping ban. Last but not least, each doping test costs about $400 USD. Therefore, some proportionality test should also be applied, weighing the costs and benefits of the anti-doping fight. Thus, to my mind the anti-doping system within the context of chess is not proportionate to achieve its aim – which is to create a level playing field and a clean game.

Perhaps, leaving the legal discourse aside is necessary to unveil the real (not postulated) aims lying behind the adoption of an anti-doping policy in chess. Indeed, political considerations overruled the proportionality test, and all the more interesting is that the chess community, in turn, “silently” accepted those pragmatic considerations. Guess what? Chess officials as well as players really want to get into the Olympic Games. In other words, the chess community would love being an Olympic sport, and hence, if we must, we would silently accept those unnecessary tests. To my knowledge, only a few players have ever been caught and punished. For instance, the games of two players were forfeited, since they refused to provide a sample to doping control at the Calvia Olympiad 2004.[7] It is quite a telling indicator of the potential gap between anti-doping rules and the practical implementation of those rules. And it is not because chess players are absolutely clean (who knows – perhaps they use cannabis or cocaine not less frequently than other athletes caught). It is because everyone understands that the system is designed not for chess, and therefore, “sensibly” does not strictly implement it.

Regarding the title of the blog post: chess players hardly could be associated with doping, but they are! Chess and doping could be compared to the two ships in the darkness that are just saying “hello” to each other, but not really communicating. Hence, we carry the little burden of some inconvenience related to doping testing, but the sweetness of such burden (that is the utopian hopes for inclusion in the Olympics, which probably will not come into effect in the upcoming decade or so) somehow compensates for such discomfort.

By Salomeja Zaksaite, Postdoctoral researcher[8] at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania), and Woman International Chess Master (WIM)

[1] Beta-blockers are prohibited in Archery (WA) (also prohibited Out-of-Competition), Automobile (FIA), Billiards (all disciplines) (WCBS), Darts (WDF), Golf (IGF), Shooting (ISSF, IPC) (also prohibited Out-of-Competition), Skiing/Snowboarding (FIS) in ski jumping, freestyle aerials/halfpipe and snowboard halfpipe/big air,      

[2] In 2004, WADA took all caffeine products out of the prohibited list, in spite of the fact that some caffeine products, such as Animine, can induce serious heart problems and even death if taken in high dosages (de Mondenard, 2004). Quoted from: Paoli L., Donati A. (2014), The Sports Doping Market. Understanding Supply and Demand, and the Challenges of Their Control. Springer New York Heidelberg Dordrecht London, pp. 8.

[3] Venkata Krishna “Now, even Chess players subjected to dope testing”, 20 November 2013, .

[4]Decision of the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel, Wijk aan Zee (NED), 21 January 2009,

[5] Ephedrine is classified as a specified stimulant (S6) and is prohibited in-competition in all sports,

[6] Heptaminol is classified as a specified stimulant (S6) and is prohibited in-competition in all sports,

[7] Actually, the events at Calvia Olympiad are the most known to the chess community. One of those players wrote a blog post accusing FIDE of somewhat “highly flawed” disciplinary hearing.  Shaun Press “FIDE gets it right on drug testing”, 29 November 2008, Yet, of course, there were more attempts to test and sanction chess players for anti-doping violations. For example, 2013 WADA report indicates that there were 3 adverse analytical findings (AAF) within those tested (80 samples were taken), however, to my knowledge, the outcomes of these AAF are not publicly available. 2013 Anti‐Doping Testing Figures Samples Analyzed and Reported by Accredited Laboratories in ADAMS,, pp. 6.

[8] Postdoctoral fellowship is being funded by European Union Structural Funds project ”Postdoctoral Fellowship Implementation in Lithuania”,

Comments (2) -

  • Clifford

    7/24/2015 9:37:43 AM |

    You fail to consider that abiding by the testing regime may actually be damaging for the health of, particularly older, chessplayers.
    Hans Ree reported that one GM retired after health problems made worse by  abiding by the doping code and avoiding the best drugs for the illness.


    12/12/2015 10:02:38 AM |

    "certain substances might enhance performance in chess, and thus, they are prohibited"

    This is not really the case. The general WADA list of banned substances is used (though w/o the beta-blocker appendix), independent of whether such substances might actually enhance chess performance. WADA has repeatedly rejected arguments (in all sports) when a competitor tries to plead that a banned substance isn't really performance enhancing. The Anti-Doping Code is specific about this.

    FIDE had two people refuse tests in 2004 largely for political reasons (and a large number of grandmasters not compete in the first place), and the 2008 Ivanchuk incident, with a related refusal case in a national championship. Back then they might have been able to skirt it, but 10 years down the road, WADA will slap them as being non-compliant if they don't follow the protocol.

Comments are closed