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

UEFA’s betting fraud detection system: How does the CAS regard this monitoring tool? By Emilio García.

Editor’s note: Emilio García (  is a doctor in law and head of disciplinary and integrity at UEFA. Before joining UEFA, he was the Spanish Football Federation’s legal director (2004–12) and an arbitrator at the CAS (2012–13).In this blog, Emilio García provides a brief review of a recent case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS): Klubi Sportiv Skënderbeu v UEFA (CAS 2016/A/4650)[1], in which he acted as main counsel for UEFA. 

Sport and match-fixing – A quick overview

Match-fixing is now legally defined as “an intentional arrangement, act or omission aimed at an improper alteration of the result or the course of a sports competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of the aforementioned sports competition with a view to obtaining an undue advantage for oneself or for others”.[2] It has been said that there has always been match-fixing in sport.[3] From the ancient Olympic Games to the most important global sports competitions of today, manipulation of results has always been an all-too-frequent occurrence.

We have seen a number of very prominent instances of this kind of issue over the years. One of the most remarkable examples, which was even the subject of a film,[4] was the match-fixing episode during the 1919 World Series, where several players from the Chicago White Sox were found guilty of accepting bribes and deliberately losing matches against the Cincinnati Reds.[5]

The situation has changed considerably since then. In particular, the globalisation of the sports betting industry has had a massive impact, with recent studies estimating that between €200bn and €500bn is betted on sport every year.[6] Match-fixing does not just affect football either;[7] it is also affecting other sports, most notably tennis.[8] More...

The Diarra Ruling of the Tribunal of Charleroi: The New Pechstein, Bosman or Mutu?

Yesterday the sports law world was buzzing due to the Diarra decision of the Tribunal de Commerce du Hainaut (the Tribunal) based in Charleroi, Belgium. Newspapers were lining up (here, here and here) to spread the carefully crafted announcement of the new triumph of Jean-Louis Dupont over his favourite nemesis: the transfer system. Furthermore, I was lucky enough to receive on this same night a copy of the French text of the judgment. My first reaction while reading quickly through the ruling, was ‘OMG he did it again’! “He” meaning Belgian lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, who after a string of defeats in his long shot challenge against FIFA’s TPO ban or UEFA’s FFP (see here and here), had [at least I believed after rushing carelessly through the judgment] manufactured a new “it”: a Bosman. Yet, after carefully re-reading the judgment, it became quickly clear to me that this was rather a new Mutu (in the sense of the latest CAS award in the ‘Mutu saga’, which I have extensively analysed on this blog and in a recent commentary for the new Yearbook of International Sports Arbitration) coupled with some reflections reminding a bit (but not really as will be explicated below) the Pechstein case.

In this blog, I will retrace briefly the story behind the case and then analyse the decision of the Belgium court. In doing so, I will focus on its reasoning regarding its jurisdiction and the compatibility of article 17(2) RSTP with EU law.More...

The Russian Doping Scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The IPC’s Rio Ineligibility of Russian Paralympic Athletes

Editor's note: This blog is part of a special blog series on the Russian doping scandal at the CAS. Last year I analysed the numerous decisions rendered by the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio and earlier this year I reviewed the CAS award in the IAAF case.

Unlike the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was very much unaffected by the Russian doping scandal until the publication of the first McLaren report in July 2016. The report highlighted that Russia’s doping scheme was way more comprehensive than what was previously thought. It extended beyond athletics to other disciplines, including Paralympic sports. Furthermore, unlike the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the IPC had a bit more time to deal with the matter, as the Rio Paralympic Games were due to start “only” in September.

After the release of the McLaren Report, the IPC president Sir Philip Craven was “truly shocked, appalled and deeply saddened at the extent of the state sponsored doping programme implemented in Russia”. He immediately announced the IPC’s intention to review the report’s findings and to act strongly upon them. Shortly thereafter, on 22 July, the IPC decided to open suspension proceedings against the National Paralympic Committee of Russia (NPC Russia) in light of its apparent inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations. In particular, due to “the prevailing doping culture endemic within Russian sport, at the very highest levels, NPC Russia appears unable or unwilling to ensure compliance with and the enforcement of the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code within its own national jurisdiction”. A few weeks later, on 7 August, the IPC Governing Board decided to suspend the Russian Paralympic Committee with immediate effect “due to its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory)”. Indeed, these “obligations are a fundamental constitutional requirement for all National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), and are vital to the IPC’s ability to ensure fair competition and to provide a level playing field for all Para athletes around the world”. Consequently, the Russian Paralympic Committee lost all rights and privileges of IPC membership. Specifically, it was not entitled to enter athletes in competitions sanctioned by the IPC, and/or to participate in IPC activities. Thus, “the Russian Paralympic Committee will not be able to enter its athletes in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games”. More...

The Russian Doping Scandal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The IAAF’s Rio Ineligibility of Russian Athletes

Since the release of the earth-shattering ARD documentary two years ago, the athletics world has been in a permanent turmoil. The International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF) is faced with both a never-ending corruption scandal (playing out in front of the French police authorities) and the related systematic doping of Russian athletes. The situation escalated in different phases led by the revelations of Russian insiders. First, in December 2014 with the ARD documentary, which demonstrated how widespread (and organized) the recourse to doping was in Russian athletics. It triggered the Pound investigation financed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which led to two damaging reports (available here and here) for the Russian anti-doping system and the IAAF itself. Thereafter, in November 2015, the IAAF had no other choice but to provisionally suspend the Russian athletics federation (ARAF then RusAF) and its members from IAAF competitions. Yet, this was only the beginning as shortly after the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory provided a detailed sketch to the New York Times of the operation of a general state-led doping scheme in Russia. The system was designed to avert any positive doping tests for top-level Russian sportspeople and was going way beyond athletics. These allegations were later largely confirmed and reinforced by the McLaren investigation initiated by WADA in May 2016, and which published its first report in July 2016 shortly before the Rio Olympics. In June 2016, the IAAF anticipated the conclusions of the report (it had received most of McLaren’s evidence beforehand) and decided to maintain the ineligibility of Russian athletes for IAAF competitions, and for the Rio Olympics. It did, however, foresee a narrow exception for Russian athletes able to show that they were properly tested outside of Russia. Nonetheless, the athletes using this exception were to compete under a neutral flag at the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, Russian athletes led by pole superstar (and now IOC member), Yelena Isinbayeva, and the Russian Olympic Committee decided to challenge this decision in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Interestingly, while the decision was rendered on 21 July 2016, the full text of the award was publically released only on 10 October 2016. In September, I analysed the Rio CAS Ad Hoc Decisions involving Russian athletes aiming to participate to the Olympics. I will now turn to the IAAF decision, which is of great importance to the future of the anti-doping system. Indeed, it lays out the fundamental legal boundaries of the capacity of international federations to impose sanctions on their members (and their members) in order to support the world anti-doping fight. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – November and December 2016. By Saverio Spera.

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

The Russian State Doping Scandal and the crisis of the World Anti-Doping System

Russian doping and the state of the Anti-Doping System has been the dominant international sports law story in November and December. This is mainly due to the release of the second report of the McLaren’s investigation on 9 December 2016. The outcome of McLaren’s work showed a “well-oiled systemic cheating scheme” that reached to the highest level of Russian sports and government, involving the striking figure of 30 sports and more than 1000 athletes in doping practices over four years and two Olympic Games. The report detailed tampering with samples to swap out athletes’ dirty urine with clean urine.More...

FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 3: The compatibility of Article 19 with EU law. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming thesis, which he shall submit in order to complete his master’s degree.

This final blog aims to provide some broader perspective, by sketching first the grander scheme in which Article 19 RSTP – FIFA's provision on the protection of minors – operates. Thereafter, the focus will shift towards testing Article 19 RSTP, thereby keeping in mind the previous blogs (Part 1: The Early Years and Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath), against EU free movement law.  

Putting Article 19 RSTP into perspective: The bigger picture

After having investigated the nuts and bolts of FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors in the first two parts of this blog, it might be useful to address its bigger picture.

Article 19 RSTP and its accompanying provisions regulate only a small share of the targeted activity. There is, unfortunately, also an illegal world. Circumvention of the prohibition is allegedly commonplace.[1] Visas and passports can be falsified.[2] Work permits can be obtained on the basis of jobs arranged by clubs.[3] More...

FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 2: The 2009 reform and its aftermath. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming thesis, which he shall submit in order to complete his master’s degree.

This is the second part of a three-piece blog on FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors, Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. The contribution in its entirety aims to provide an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. The previous (first) part has shed light on the “birth” and “first years” of the provision, and as such illustrated the relevant developments from 2001 till 2009. This second part covers the rule’s “adolescent years”, which span from 2009 to the present. The major changes put forward in the 2009, 2015 and 2016 versions of the RSTP will be addressed. Thereafter the important CAS decisions concerning Article 19, Muhic, Vada I and II, FC Barcelona, RFEF, and the FIFA decisions relating to Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, will be scrutinized. The third, and final, part will constitute a substantive assessment of the provision under EU Internal Market law.

Given that the version adopted in 2008 left Article 19 untouched, the 2009 RSTP represented the next significant step in the regulation of the protection of minors. It had become clear that the system as used up to that point was inadequate to achieve its goal,[1] most notably because several national associations still neglected to strictly apply the rules.[2] More...

FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 1: The Early Years. By Kester Mekenkamp.

Editor’s note: Kester Mekenkamp is an LL.M. student in European Law at Leiden University and an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre. This blog is, to a great extent, an excerpt of his forthcoming master thesis. 

On 24 November 2016, a claim was lodged before a Zurich commercial court against FIFA’s transfer regulations by a 17-year-old African football player.[1] The culprit, according to the allegation: The provision on the protection of minors, Article 19 of the Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players.[2] The claimant and his parents dispute the validity of this measure, based on the view that it discriminates between football players from the European Union and those from third countries. Besides to Swiss cartel law, the claim is substantiated on EU citizenship rights, free movement and competition law. Evidently, it is difficult to assess the claim’s chance of success based on the sparse information provided in the press.[3] Be that as it may, it does provide for an ideal (and unexpected) opportunity to delve into the fascinating subject of my master thesis on FIFA’s regulatory system aimed at enhancing the protection of young football players and its compatibility with EU law. This three-part blog shall therefore try to provide an encompassing overview of the rule’s lifespan since its inception in 2001. More...

The entitlement to Training Compensation of “previous” clubs under EU Competition Law. By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos is an international sports lawyer associated to RH&C (Spain). He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal and a guest lecturer in the ISDE-FC Barcelona Masters’ Degree in Sports Management and Legal Skills.

Article 6 of Annexe IV (Training compensation) of the FIFA-RSTP (Ed. 2016) contains the so-called “Special Provisions for the EU/EEA” applicable to players moving from one association to another inside the territory of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA).
The provisions regarding training compensation result from the understanding reached between FIFA and UEFA with the European Union in March 2001[1], and subsequent modifications introduced in the FIFA-RSTP revised version of 2005 to ensure the compatibility of the transfer system with EU law.[2]
This blog will focus on the exception contained in article 6(3) Annexe IV of the FIFA-RSTP. According to this article, when “the former club” fails to offer a contract to the player, it loses its right to claim training compensation from the players’ new club, unless it can justify that it is entitled to such compensation. Instead, the right of “previous clubs” to training compensation is fully preserved irrespective of their behaviour with the player.[3] From a legal standpoint, such discrimination between the “former club” and the “previous clubs” raises some questions that I will try to address in this paper. More...

The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the ‘Real Madrid Saga’. Where the first part outlined the background of the case and the role played by the Spanish national courts, the second part focuses on the EU Commission’s recovery decision of 4 July 2016 and dissects the arguments advanced by the Commission to reach it. As will be shown, the most important question the Commission had to answer was whether the settlement agreement of 29 July 2011 between the Council of Madrid and Real Madrid constituted a selective economic advantage for Real Madrid in the sense of Article 107(1) TFEU.[1] Before delving into that analysis, the blog will commence with the other pending question, namely whether the Commission also scrutinized the legality of the operation Bernabeú-Opañel under EU State aid law. By way of reminder, this operation consisted of Real Madrid receiving from the municipality the land adjacent to the Bernabéu stadium, while transferring in return €6.6 million, as well as plots of land in other areas of the city. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | From Lord of the Rings to Lord of the Drinks – A legal take on the downfall of Yuri van Gelder at the Rio Olympics. By Guido Hahn (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

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

From Lord of the Rings to Lord of the Drinks – A legal take on the downfall of Yuri van Gelder at the Rio Olympics. By Guido Hahn (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Editor’s note: Guido graduated cum laude from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He teaches law at the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. He specializes in sports law and provides legal advice for the professional sports sector.


This blog is a commentary on a recent case that hit like a bombshell in the Netherlands (and beyond) during the recent Olympic Games in Rio. The case concerns a Dutch athlete, Yuri van Gelder, who reached the Olympic finals in his sport, got sent home by ‘his’ NOC (NOC*NSF) after a night out in Rio and launched legal proceedings in front of a Dutch court to claim back his place in the finals. This commentary will attempt to explain the Dutch ruling and evaluate whether a different legal route would have been possible and preferable.

Yuri van Gelder is a Dutch gymnast, who is specialized in the rings. He became internationally known as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ after winning the gold medal at the World Championship in Melbourne in November 2005. After some setbacks in his career, he was not able to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2009, during the Dutch Championships he was tested positive on the use of cocaine. He admitted that he had a drug problem and had been using cocaine for some years. He was suspended for a year by the Dutch Gymnastics Federation (KNGU), excluded from the 2012 London Olympics under the regulations of the IOC and even lost his job in the military. After winning the gold medal at a World league game in Gent on his comeback in 2010, he was taken off the team for the World Championships by the KNGU, claiming that he had used cocaine again.

In October 2011 the CAS found the IOC-rule that excluded athletes, who had been suspended for six months or longer, from future Olympic Games to be invalid and unenforceable. Van Gelder was therefore allowed to participate at the 2012 London Olympics, but again was not able to qualify, after failing to meet the required score at the World Championship in Tokyo at the end of 2011. From that moment on, the athlete decided to fully focus on the 2016 Rio Olympics, for which he eventually qualified. Like all other Dutch athletes who qualified and had been selected for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Van Gelder had to sign a so called ‘Athlete Agreement’ with NOC*NSF, which encapsulates the period of preparation before as well as the duration of the Games. At 33 years of age, these Olympics were his last chance to finally win that Olympic medal he so anxiously craved for.

Sent home from the Olympics

On Saturday 6 August in Rio, Van Gelder qualified for the individual finals on the rings, which were to take place nine days later, on 15 August. That same Saturday night he left the Olympic village and came back somewhere around 5 am. On Sunday he stayed in bed until approximately 3 pm, thereby missing a scheduled training session with the team. On Monday 8 August, the NOC*NSF, after hearing Van Gelder, disqualified him from further participation in the Games. That same day, an NOC*NSF employee was sent with the athlete to escort him to the airport from where he was flown back to the Netherlands. The NOC*NSF then removed Van Gelder from the finals through the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which appointed a replacement. A short press release by NOC*NSF stated that, in consultation with the KNGU, Van Gelder was sent home after the Federation had informed the NOC that he had come back to the village early in the morning, in spite of the team rules. It further stated that the athlete had admitted to the use of alcohol. This fueled speculation in the media, considering Van Gelder’s past. However, there was also criticism regarding the NOC*NSF’s decision, as many felt that it was disproportionate to disqualify an athlete, who had worked so hard to reach the finals, for celebrating one night out with still more than a week to go to those finals.

Van Gelder, now back in the Netherlands, took a lawyer and decided to start proceedings in front of the Dutch interlocutory judge of the Court of Gelderland (the Van Gelder Case). The oral proceedings, broadcasted live on Dutch television, took place on Friday 12 August, three days before the Olympic finals.

The ruling of the interlocutory Judge of Gelderland

Van Gelder’s lawyer requested from the court to order NOC*NSF to do everything in its power to make sure Van Gelder could participate in the individual finals on the rings on 15 August, including starting proceedings before the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio, or that NOC*NSF assist Van Gelder in starting proceedings for the CAS Ad Hoc Division and grant him a fee in advance for the costs.[1]

The court had to determine on which grounds the decision(s) to disqualify Van Gelder from participating in the Games had been taken and whether the severity of the measure(s) was proportionate in relation to the noncompliance with the obligations laid down in the Athlete Agreement. In doing so, the interlocutory judge applies a ‘marginal test’, which means he will keep certain deference towards the challenged decision and will consider only whether the decision ‘could reasonably have been made’.

The Athlete Agreement states that the athlete is expected to make every effort to ensure that he is capable of the maximum athletic performance, in preparation for and during the Olympics, and thereto devotes himself to the ‘Program’ completely and with optimal athletic effort.[2] Furthermore, the athlete is expected to behave as a good member of ‘TeamNL Rio 2016’ both during competition and elsewhere, having in mind the rules of the IOC Code of Ethics but not only.[3] If the athlete is not complying with the obligations as laid down in the Agreement, the NOC*NSF can decide to exclude the athlete from participating in the Games and/or impose a loss of (the right to) a medal bonus.[4] Before taking such a decision the athlete always needs to be heard/questioned.[5]

The court held for a fact that Van Gelder was told by his trainer through ‘WhatsApp’ not to stay out too late, that he should not drink and that he had to train the next day with the team.[6] However, the court was not convinced of Van Gelder’s noncompliance with the ‘behavioral rules’ enshrined in article 6, paragraph 4 of the Athlete Agreement. The Athlete Agreement or the IOC Code of Ethics do not define or specify clearly what these ‘behavioral rules’ stand for, even though the measures the NOC can take can severely affect the athlete. The court considers that these kind of behavioral rules should be drafted more precisely and should be communicated more clearly to the athletes. Thus, merely leaving the Olympic village without permission, drinking, and coming back early in the morning cannot be seen as violating article 6, paragraph 4 of the Agreement with the NOC.[7]

However, the fact that Van Gelder was warned and still went out drinking, came home early in the morning and missed a scheduled training, is undoubtedly coming short of the obligation laid down in article 6, paragraph 3 of the Athlete Agreement. This behavior is contrary to his duty to commit to the training and competition schedule.[8] Furthermore, the court continued, the athlete’s behavior undermined the team’s efforts and, considering Van Gelder’s past, this has resulted in a breach of trust with his trainer and with the NOC*NSF. Although it is possible that, based on this behavior, another NOC would have taken a different decision than kicking the athlete out of the Olympics, the court considers this irrelevant as it only applies a marginal test.[9] In addition, Van Gelder was questioned and heard twice before the decision was made. The decision therefore cannot be considered to have been made in haste or without proper deliberation.[10] In the end, the court determined that the NOC*NSF could reasonably decide that Van Gelder has committed a serious breach of his contractual duties under the Athlete Agreement. The same applied to the decision to disqualify Van Gelder from further participation in the Games.

A different legal route: The CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio

Could Van Gelder, instead of going to the Dutch court, have taken a different strategic approach in this case? In the author’s opinion this would have been possible, as the CAS has (since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics) set up an Ad Hoc Division with the purpose of providing for arbitration of disputes, insofar as they arise during the Games, within 24 hours.[11] In the case of a request for arbitration against a decision by an NOC, the claimant must, before filing such a request, have exhausted all the internal remedies available to him pursuant to the statutes or regulations of the sports body concerned, unless the time needed to exhaust the internal remedies would make the appeal to the CAS Ad Hoc Division ineffective.[12] In this case, the internal remedy can be found in the Athlete Agreement, which states that when a dispute arises between the parties during the Games concerning or related to the compliance of the Agreement, the concerned party informs the so-called ‘Chef de Mission’. If the Chef de Mission is incapable of resolving the dispute, it will be send to a committee of binding advisors.[13] This committee has jurisdiction in case of urgency and where the athlete and NOC*NSF both choose an advisor, both advisors in turn choose an independent chairman, after which the committee gives a binding decision to end the dispute.[14]

Why Van Gelder had not chosen to apply the internal dispute resolution procedure of article 22, paragraph 3 and 4 of the Athlete Agreement is not clear from the facts of the case. In that regard, the events of 8 August, when Van Gelder was questioned or heard, become (even more) important. The Dutch courts stated that Van Gelder was questioned twice by the NOC*NSF, but did not clarify what was discussed. The only sure thing is that directly after the decision by the NOC*NSF, Van Gelder was escorted to the airport and flew back to the Netherlands. Would he still have left the country if he had been informed that the Agreement provided for an internal procedure within NOC*NSF, aimed at resolving disputes during the Games, in which he had the right to appoint one of the binding advisors? If such a procedure would have taken place and Van Gelder would have lost, an appeal in front of CAS would still have been possible. Furthermore, would he have chosen to fly back, if he had been advised that the CAS Ad Hoc Division had jurisdiction in cases of urgency or if the NOC was unwilling or unable to trigger its internal procedure? Would he have made the same choices had he known that it would help his case before the CAS Ad Hoc Division if he had attended any hearing in person?

What is clear is that Van Gelder got legal representation when he was back in the Netherlands. At that point a flight back to Rio was rather costly for the athlete. An internal procedure with the NOC*NSF might have been impractical to carry out with eight days remaining to the final, but informing the NOC*NSF in writing that there was a dispute and requesting an internal procedure could have (regardless of the NOC’s reaction) helped to establish the jurisdiction of the CAS Ad Hoc Division if needed. This CAS Ad Hoc Division procedure could also have been started from the Netherlands.


The remaining unknown is whether the CAS Ad Hoc Division would have ruled in favor of Van Gelder and/or have granted him access to the finals. As the Dutch court stated, the Athlete Agreement is rather unclear with respect to the obligation of an athlete to act as a good team member. The CAS Ad Hoc Division might have taken this vagueness into consideration. Furthermore, the CAS Ad Hoc Division would not have applied the same level of deference as the Dutch court. It could have also taken into account the fact that the consequences of the decision of the NOC*NSF were very severe for the athlete, especially since this would be his last Games. Against all this, the fact would have remained that the behavior of the athlete did breach article 6, paragraph 3 of the Athlete Agreement and that a replacement for Van Gelder in the finals was already appointed. Yet, even if the CAS had invalidated the decision by the NOC without granting Van Gelder a place in the finals, he would have been in a good position to claim damages.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this episode is that Van Gelder could have followed a different legal route. This might have provided the athlete a better chance at winning his legal challenge and get back into the Olympics. The Dutch court has made it clear that it wants the ‘behavioral rules’ drafted by the NOC*NSF, or other sports bodies for that matter, to be more precise and better communicated to the athletes, especially when the measures at the disposal of the NOC can severely affect the rights of an athlete. Besides not drinking, going to bed on time, and never missing training a week before the most important finals of your life, there is another lesson to be learned from the case. As an athlete, when facing sanctions from a Federation, NOC or other SGBs, it is wise to get legal representation immediately. This might increase your chances of successfully challenging the decision and taking part in the Olympic Games or any other competition.

[1] Van Gelder Case, point 3.1.

[2] Article 6, paragraph 3, Athlete agreement. The Program is defined in the agreement as: The training and competition schedule for the Athlete, approved by the Federation after consultation with NOC*NSF, with the goal of qualifying for and participating in the Olympic Games.

[3] Article 6, paragraph 4, Athlete agreement. TeamNL Rio 2016 is defined in the agreement as: The group of both athletes and their trainers/coaches, that is participating in the Olympic Games (and with whom NOC*NSF has a written agreement for the Olympic Games Rio 2016) and that has asked for accreditation by OCOG through NOC*NSF.

[4] Article 20, paragraph 1, sub a and b, Athlete Agreement.

[5] Article 20, paragraph 2, Athlete Agreement.

[6] Van Gelder Case, point 4.3.

[7] Ibid, point 4.6.

[8] Ibid, point 4.7.

[9] Ibid, point 4.9.

[10] Ibid, point 4.10.

[11] See on the CAS Ad Hoc Division for example: C. Keidel and A. Engelhard,’The Legal Framework of the CAS Ad Hoc Division at the Rio Olympic Games’, LawInSport August 4 2016, via:, viewed on the 24th of August 2016. And from the same authors: ‘Key Ad Hoc Division Cases handed down at the Olympic Games, LawInSport August 4 2016, via:, viewed on the 24th of August 2016.

[12] See Article 1 of the Arbitration Rules applicable to the CAS ad hoc division for the Olympic Games.

[13] Athlete agreement, Article 22, paragraph 4.

[14] Ibid, Article 22, paragraph 3.

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