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

Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

The rise of Dutee Chand, India’s 100 and 200-meter champion in the under 18-category, was astonishing. Her achievements were more than promising: after only two years, she broke the 100m and 200m national junior records, competed in the 100m final at the World Youth Athletics Championships in Donetsk and collected two gold medals in the Asian Junior Championships in Chinese Taipei. But, in July 2014, this steady rise was abruptly halted. Following a request from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) conducted blood tests on the Indian sprinters. Dutee was detected with female hyperandrogenism, i.e a condition where the female body produces high levels of testosterone. As a result, a few days before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the AFI declared Dutee ineligible to compete under the IAAF Regulations and prevented her from competing in future national and international events in the female category. Pursuant to the IAAF ‘Hyperandrogenism Policy’, the AFI would allow Dutee to return to competition only if she lowers her testosterone level beneath the male range by means of medical or surgical treatment.[1] On 25 September 2014, Dutee filed an appeal before the CAS, seeking to overturn the AFI’s decision and declare IAAF and IOC’s hyperandrogenism regulations null and void. She is defending her right to compete the way she actually is: a woman with high levels of testosterone. Interestingly enough, albeit a respondent, AFI supports her case.

IAAF and IOC rules set limits to female hyperandrogenism, which is deemed an unfair advantage that erodes female sports integrity. While these rules have been contested with regard to their scientific and ethical aspects, this is the first time that they will be debated in court. This appeal could have far-reaching ramifications for the sports world. It does not only seek to pave the way for a better ‘deal’ for female athletes with hyperandrogenism, who are coerced into hormonal treatment and even surgeries to ‘normalise’ themselves as women[2], but it rather brings the CAS, for the first time, before the thorny question:

How to strike a right balance between the core principle of ‘fair play’ and norms of non-discrimination, in cases where a determination of who qualifies as a ‘woman’ for the purposes of sport has to be made? More...

The O’Bannon Case: The end of the US college sport’s amateurism model? By Zygimantas Juska

On 8 August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favour of former UCLA basketball player O'Bannon and 19 others, declaring that NCAA's longstanding refusal to compensate athletes for the use of their name, image and likenesses (NILs) violates US antitrust laws. In particular, the long-held amateurism justification promoted by the NCAA was deemed unconvincing.

On 14 November, the NCAA has appealed the judgment, claiming that federal judge erred in law by not applying a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. One week later, the NCAA received support from leading antitrust professors who are challenging the Judge Wilken’s reasoning in an amicus curiae. They are concerned that the judgment may jeopardize the proper regulation of college athletics. The professors argued that if Wilken’s judgment is upheld, it

would substantially expand the power of the federal courts to alter organizational rules that serve important social and academic interests…This approach expands the ‘less restrictive alternative prong’ of the antitrust rule of reason well beyond any appropriate boundaries and would install the judiciary as a regulatory agency for collegiate athletics”.   


Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part II): Lessons from the American College Athletes cases. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

In the wake of the French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) image rights dispute with Euroleague and EA Games, we threw the “jump ball” to start a series on players’ image rights in international professional basketball. In our first blogpost, we discussed why image rights contracts in professional basketball became a fertile ground for disputes when it comes to the enforcement of these contracts by the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT). Indeed, we pointed out that clubs might take advantage of the BAT’s inconsistent jurisprudence to escape obligations deriving from image rights contracts.

In this second limb, we will open a second field of legal battles “around the rim”: the unauthorized use of players’ image rights by third parties. We will use as a point of reference the US College Athletes image rights cases before US Courts and we will thereby examine the legal nature of image rights and the precise circumstances in which such rights may be infringed. Then, coming back to where we started, we will discuss the French case through the lens of US case law on players’ image rights. 

Source: More...

The Olympic Agenda 2020: The devil is in the implementation!

The 40 recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020 are out! First thought: one should not underplay the 40 recommendations, they constitute (on paper at least) a potential leap forward for the IOC. The media will focus on the hot stuff: the Olympic channel, the pluri-localisation of the Games, or their dynamic format. More importantly, and to some extent surprisingly to us, however, the IOC has also fully embraced sustainability and good governance. Nonetheless, the long-term legacy of the Olympic Agenda 2020 will hinge on the IOC’s determination to be true to these fundamental commitments. Indeed, the devil is always in the implementation, and the laudable intents of some recommendations will depend on future political choices by Olympic bureaucrats. 

For those interested in human rights and democracy at (and around) the Olympics, two aspects are crucial: the IOC’s confession that the autonomy of sport is intimately linked to the quality of its governance standards and the central role the concept of sustainability is to play in the bidding process and the host city contract.  More...

UEFA’s tax-free Euro 2016 in France: State aid or no State aid?

Last week, the French newspaper Les Echos broke the story that UEFA (or better said its subsidiary) will be exempted from paying taxes in France on revenues derived from Euro 2016. At a time when International Sporting Federations, most notably FIFA, are facing heavy criticisms for their bidding procedures and the special treatment enjoyed by their officials, this tax exemption was not likely to go unnoticed. The French minister for sport, confronted with an angry public opinion, responded by stating that tax exemptions are common practice regarding international sporting events. The former French government agreed to this exemption. In fact, he stressed that without it “France would never have hosted the competition and the Euro 2016 would have gone elsewhere”. More...

The New Olympic Host City Contract: Human Rights à la carte? by Ryan Gauthier, PhD Researcher (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Three weeks ago, I gave a talk for a group of visiting researchers at Harvard Law School on the accountability of the IOC for human rights abuses caused by hosting Olympic Games. On the day of that talk, Human Rights Watch announced that the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) would insert new language into the Host City Contract presumably for the 2022 Olympic Games onwards. The new language apparently requires the parties to the contract to:

“take all necessary measures to ensure that development projects necessary for the organization of the Games comply with local, regional, and national legislation, and international agreements and protocols, applicable in the host country with regard to planning, construction, protection of the environment, health, safety, and labour laws.”More...

The UN and the IOC: Beautiful friendship or Liaison Dangereuse?

The IOC has trumpeted it worldwide as a « historical milestone »: the United Nations has recognised the sacrosanct autonomy of sport. Indeed, the Resolution A/69/L.5 (see the final draft) adopted by the General Assembly on 31 October states that it  “supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic movement”. This is a logical conclusion to a year that has brought the two organisations closer than ever. In April, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed former IOC President, Jacques Rogge, Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport. At this occasion, the current IOC President, Thomas Bach, made an eloquent speech celebrating a “historic step forward to better accomplish our common mission for humanity” and a memorandum understanding was signed between the UN and the IOC. This is all sweet and well, but is there something new under the sun?More...

Image Rights in Professional Basketball (Part I): The ‘in-n-out rimshot’ of the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal to enforce players’ image rights contracts. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

A warning addressed to fans of French teams featuring in the recently launched video game NBA 2K15: Hurry up! The last jump ball for Strasbourg and Nanterre in NBA 2K 15 may occur earlier than expected. The French Labour Union of Basketball (Syndicat National du Basket, SNB) is dissatisfied that Euroleague and 2K Games did not ask (nor paid) for its permission before including the two teams of Pro A in the NBA 2K15 edition. What is at issue? French basketball players’ image rights have been transferred to SNB, which intends to start proceedings before the US Courts against 2K Games requesting 120.000 euros for unauthorized use of the players’ image rights. SNB is clear: it is not about the money, but rather to defend the players’ rights.[1] Strasbourg and Nanterre risk to “warm up” the virtual bench if this litigation goes ahead. 

Source: More...

Sport and EU Competition Law: uncharted territories - (II) Mandatory player release systems with no compensation for clubs. By Ben Van Rompuy

The European Commission’s competition decisions in the area of sport, which set out broad principles regarding the interface between sports-related activities and EU competition law, are widely publicized. As a result of the decentralization of EU competition law enforcement, however, enforcement activity has largely shifted to the national level. Since 2004, national competition authorities (NCAs) and national courts are empowered to fully apply the EU competition rules on anti-competitive agreements (Article 101 TFEU) and abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 TFEU).

Even though NCAs and national courts have addressed a series of interesting competition cases (notably dealing with the regulatory aspects of sport) during the last ten years, the academic literature has largely overlooked these developments. This is unfortunate since all stakeholders (sports organisations, clubs, practitioners, etc.) increasingly need to learn from pressing issues arising in national cases and enforcement decisions. In a series of blog posts we will explore these unknown territories of the application of EU competition law to sport.

In this second installment of this blog series, we discuss a recent judgment of the regional court (Landgericht) of Dortmund finding that the International Handball Federation (IHF)’s mandatory release system of players for matches of national teams without compensation infringes EU and German competition law.[1] More...

The CAS Ad Hoc Division in 2014: Business as usual? – Part.1: The Jurisdiction quandary

The year is coming to an end and it has been a relatively busy one for the CAS Ad Hoc divisions. Indeed, the Ad Hoc division was, as usual now since the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996[1], settling  “Olympic” disputes during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, it was also, and this is a novelty, present at the Asian Games 2014 in Incheon.  Both divisions have had to deal with seven (published) cases in total (four in Sochi and three in Incheon). The early commentaries available on the web (here, here and there), have been relatively unmoved by this year’s case law. Was it then simply ‘business as usual’, or is there more to learn from the 2014 Ad Hoc awards? Two different dimensions of the 2014 decisions by the Ad Hoc Division seem relevant to elaborate on : the jurisdiction quandary (part. 1) and the selection drama (part. 2). More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part I: IOC and UEFA – By Tomáš Grell

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

Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part I: IOC and UEFA – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

It has been more than seven years since the FIFA Executive Committee awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. And yet only in November 2017 did the Qatari government finally agree to dismantle the controversial kafala system, described by many as modern-day slavery. Meanwhile, hundreds of World Cup-related migrant workers have reportedly been exposed to a wide range of abusive practices such as false promises about the pay, passport confiscation, or appalling working and living conditions.[1] On top of that, some workers have paid the highest price – their life. To a certain extent, all this could have been avoided if human rights had been taken into account when evaluating the Qatari bid to host the tournament. In such a case, Qatar would not have won the bidding contest without providing a convincing explanation of how it intends to ensure that the country's poor human rights record will not affect individuals, including migrant workers, contributing to the delivery of the World Cup. An explicit commitment to abolish the kafala system could have formed an integral part of the bid.

Urged by Professor John Ruggie and his authoritative recommendations,[2] in October 2017 FIFA decided to include human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host the 2026 World Cup, following similar steps taken earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UEFA in the context of the Olympic Winter Games 2026 and the Euro 2024 respectively. This two-part blog critically examines the role human rights play in the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC, UEFA, and FIFA. The first part sheds light on the IOC and UEFA. The second part then takes a closer look at FIFA and aims to use a comparative analysis to determine whether the new bidding regulations are robust enough to ensure that selected candidates abide by international human rights standards.


IOC: Olympic Winter Games 2026

About the host selection process

Compared to the past, cities bidding to host the 2026 Games could expect lower costs, simplified procedures, and more assistance provided by the IOC.[3] All interested cities[4] might enter a Dialogue Stage[5] and engage with the IOC to learn more about the benefits and responsibilities associated with the hosting and staging of the Games. Although the Dialogue Stage is non-committal, cities that join are supposed to present their consolidated Games concepts,[6] outlining their vision, long-term plan alignment, or initial financial strategy, as well as providing information with regard to a potential referendum.[7] These consolidated concepts, together with the IOC's own research, will serve as a basis for a preliminary report exploring the capacity of interested cities to deliver successful Games.[8] The IOC Executive Board will review this report and recommend to the IOC Session which cities should be invited to the Candidature Stage.[9] The IOC Session will designate Candidate Cities in October 2018 during its meeting in Buenos Aires.[10]

Candidate Cities will then have until 11 January 2019 to prepare and submit their Candidature Files together with an initial set of core guarantees.[11] In their Candidature Files, Candidate Cities shall provide answers to a variety of questions as set out in the Candidature Questionnaire, covering areas such as sustainability and legacy, transport, accommodation, safety and security, finance, or marketing. Thereafter, Candidate Cities will be visited by the IOC Evaluation Commission that is tasked with conducting an in-depth assessment of each bid and producing a report to help the IOC Session elect the most suitable candidate. The Host City of the 2026 Games will be elected in September 2019.[12]

Human rights as selection criteria

Little attention is paid to human rights in the Candidature Questionnaire. Candidate Cities are only required to provide a guarantee whereby the national government and relevant local authorities undertake to respect and protect human rights and ensure that any violation of human rights is remedied ''in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country''.[13] This language is somewhat ambiguous because when defining human rights that should be respected and protected in connection with the hosting and staging of the Games, the guarantee first refers to human rights applicable in the Host Country and only then to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).[14] The latter make clear that the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights extends to specific international treaties and other instruments.[15] However, some of these treaties could be inapplicable in the Host Country if not ratified. This would make the guarantee to some extent self-contradictory. Apart from the guarantee, the IOC does not ask for any other human rights-related information from Candidate Cities. In the absence of such information, it is difficult to see how the Evaluation Commission[16] will assess the Candidate Cities' capacity to respect and protect human rights.


UEFA: Euro 2024

About the host selection process

While the Euro 2020 will be a bit of an experiment with games scheduled to take place in 12 different cities across the continent, the Euro 2024 returns to its classic format as only one member association will host the tournament. In March 2017, UEFA confirmed that it would be either Germany or Turkey. The next step for both member associations is to submit their Bid Dossiers to UEFA by no later than 27 April 2018.[17] In principle, the bidders must demonstrate in their Bid Dossiers that they meet all Tournament Requirements. Importantly, UEFA reserves the right to appoint independent consultants when evaluating bids.[18] A written evaluation report on each bid will be circulated in September 2018 before the UEFA Executive Committee finally decides which member association will host the Euro 2024.[19]

Human rights as selection criteria

UEFA requires that the bidders and then the Host Association respect, protect, and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of workers and children, in line with international treaties and other instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[20] In order to meet this obligation, the bidders should in particular seek to culturally embed human rights, proactively address human rights risks, engage with relevant stakeholders, and implement means of reporting and accountability.[21] The bidders' capacity to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights will be evaluated based on their human rights strategy that must be included in their Bid Dossiers.[22] As part of this strategy, the member associations bidding to host the Euro 2024 should explain how they are going to integrate the UN Guiding Principles in their activities related to the organisation of the tournament.[23] While no further details are given about the required content of this strategy, UEFA suggests that a successful bid should not fail to: (i) outline proposed measures aimed at preventing human rights abuses, in particular child labour in supply chains and violations of workers' rights; (ii) provide evidence of meaningful consultation with vulnerable groups; or (iii) describe grievance mechanisms that will be available for victims of human rights abuses.[24]



Unlike UEFA, the IOC has attracted widespread criticism for being involved with negative human rights impacts.[25] Nevertheless, it is the former who gives more weight to human rights in its new bidding regulations. This is even more surprising given that the IOC introduced its bidding regulations later than UEFA. It seems that the IOC deliberately avoids including human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host the Olympic Games, hoping that this would encourage more cities to participate in the host selection process. Further reflections on human rights as selection criteria in bidding regulations for mega-sporting events will be presented in the second part of this blog that will focus on FIFA and provide some comparative perspectives.

[1]    Amnesty International, The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game: Exploitation of Migrant Workers on a Qatar 2022 World Cup Site, 30 March 2016. See also Human Rights Watch, Qatar: Take Urgent Action to Protect Construction Workers, 27 September 2017.

[2]    John G. Ruggie, For the Game. For the World. FIFA and Human Rights, p. 32.

[3]    IOC, IOC Approves New Candidature Process for Olympic Winter Games 2026, 11 July 2017.

[4]    To the best of my knowledge, Calgary (Canada), Salt Lake City (United States), Sapporo (Japan), Sion (Switzerland), and Telemark (Norway) consider bidding.

[5]    The Dialogue Stage runs from September 2017 to October 2018. Interested cities can join until 31 March 2018. See IOC, Candidature Process for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, pp. 11-17.

[6]    Ibid.

[7]    On 15 October 2017, a referendum was held in the Austrian province of Tirol. A negative outcome prevented the city of Innsbruck from launching a bid to host the 2026 Games.

[8]    This report is to be drawn up by the Olympic Winter Games 2026 Working Group overseen by an IOC member and consisting of individuals representing the International Paralympic Committee, the IOC's Athletes Commission, International Winter Sports Federations, and National Olympic Committees. See Candidature Process for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, p. 16.

[9]    Ibid.

[10]   The capital of Argentina will host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

[11]   IOC, Candidature Process for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, p. 18.

[12]   Ibid. p. 22.

[13]   IOC, Candidature Questionnaire for the Olympic Winter Games 2026, pp. 86, 88.

[14]   Ibid.

[15]   These include, at a minimum, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the principles concerning fundamental rights in the eight ILO core conventions as set out in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. See UN Guiding Principles, Principle 12.

[16]   The Evaluation Commission may be assisted by experts. See IOC, Olympic Charter, Bye-Law to Rule 33.

[17]   UEFA, Bid Regulations for the UEFA Euro 2024, Article 5.05.

[18]   Ibid. Article 14.

[19]   Ibid. Articles 6.02 and 6.04.

[20]   UEFA, Tournament Requirements for the UEFA Euro 2024, Sector 03 – Political, Social and Environmental Aspects, p. 5.

[21]   Ibid. pp. 5-6.

[22]   UEFA, Bid Dossier Template for the UEFA Euro 2024, Sector 03 – Political, Social and Environmental Aspects, p. 5.

[23]   Ibid.

[24]   UEFA, Tournament Requirements for the UEFA Euro 2024, Sector 03 – Political, Social and Environmental Aspects, p. 6.

[25]   Jonathan Watts, Rio Olympics linked to widespread human rights violations, report reveals, 8 December 2015. See also Human Rights Watch, Race to the Bottom: Exploitation of Migrant Workers Ahead of Russia's 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, 6 February 2013. See also Human Rights Watch, 'One Year of My Blood': Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing, 11 March 2008. 

Comments are closed