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

Resolution of Disputes Arising From Football Contracts in Turkey. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s note: N. Emre Bilginoglu[1] is a lawyer based in Istanbul. His book entitled “Arbitration on Football Contracts” was published in 2015.


With a total market value of approximately 911 million EUR, the Turkish Super League ranks as one of the prominent football leagues in Europe. Five of the eighteen teams that make up half of the total market value are based in Istanbul, a busy megalopolis that hosts a population of fifteen million inhabitants.[2] As might be expected, the elevated market value brings forth a myriad of disputes, mainly between the clubs and the players. However, other crucial actors such as coaches and agents are also involved in some of the disputes. These actors of the football industry are of all countries, coming from various countries with different legal systems.

One corollary of rapid globalisation is the development of transnational law, which is quite visible in the lex sportiva.[3] Like foreign investors, foreign actors of the sports industry look for some legal security before signing a contract. FIFA does protect these foreign actors in some way, providing players and coaches legal remedies for employment-related disputes of an international dimension. But what if the legal system of the FIFA member association does not provide a reasonable legal remedy for its national actors?[4] More...

The World Anti-Doping System at a Crossroads

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Tomorrow the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will gather in Glasgow for its most important meeting since the creation of the Agency. Since the broadcasting of a documentary alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics by the German public broadcaster in December 2014, the anti-doping world has been in disarray. The various independent investigations (the Pound Report and the McLaren Report) ordered by WADA into doping allegations against Russian athletes have confirmed the findings of the documentary and the truth of the accusations brought forward by Russian whistle-blowers. Undeniably, there is something very rotten in the world anti-doping system. The current system failed to register a widespread, and apparently relatively open, state-sponsored scheme aimed at manipulating any doping test conducted in Russian territory. Moreover, it was not WADA that uncovered it, but an independent journalist supported by courageous whistle-blowers. More...

The EU State aid and sport saga: The Real Madrid Decision (part 1)

Out of all the State aid investigations of recent years involving professional football clubs, the outcome of the Real Madrid case was probably the most eagerly awaited. Few football clubs have such a global impact as this Spanish giant, and any news item involving the club, whether positive or negative, is bound to make the headlines everywhere around the globe. But for many Spaniards, this case involves more than a simple measure by a public authority scrutinized by the European Commission. For them, it exemplifies the questionable relationship between the private and the public sector in a country sick of never-ending corruption scandals.[1] Moreover, Spain is only starting to recover from its worst financial crisis in decades, a crisis founded on real estate speculation, but whose effects were mostly felt by ordinary citizens.[2] Given that the Real Madrid case involves fluctuating values of land that are transferred from the municipality to the club, and vice versa, it represents a type of operation that used to be very common in the Spanish professional football sector, but has come under critical scrutiny in recent years.[3] More...

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

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.  

The Headlines
We are looking for an International Sports Law Intern (with a particular interest in the CAS)! More information can be found here.

The (terrible) State of the World Anti-Doping System

The fight against doping is still on top of the agenda after the Russian doping scandal. The national anti-doping organizations (NADOs) have reiterated their call for an in depth reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency at a special summit in Bonn, Germany. These reforms are deemed urgent and necessary to “restore confidence of clean athletes and those who value the integrity of sport” and secure “the public’s desire for a fair and level playing field”. The NADOs propose, amongst others things, to separate the investigatory, testing and results management functions from sports organizations, and to remove sports administrators from crucial anti-doping executive functions. More...

Taking the Blue Pill or the Red Pill: Should Athletes Really Check their Medications against the Prohibited List Personally? - A Comment by Marjolaine Viret (University of Neuchâtel )

Editor's Note:  Marjolaine is an attorney admitted to the Geneva bar (Switzerland) who specialises in sports and life sciences.   She currently participates as a scientific collaborator at the University of Neuchâtel on a research project to produce the first article-by-article legal commentary of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code. Her latest book Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law was published in 2016 in the International Sports Law Book Series of T.M.C. ASSER Press.


On 30 September 2016, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) rendered its award in the matter opposing high-profile tennis player Maria Sharapova to the International Tennis Federation (“ITF”). Maria Sharapova was appealing the two-year ban imposed on her by the ITF Tribunal in June 2016 for her use of Meldonium, a substance newly added to the WADA Prohibited List 2016[1]. Since neither the ITF nor WADA had chosen to challenge the Tribunal’s decision, the stakes of the case were rather simple: would the player convince the CAS panel that she should benefit from a finding of “No Significant Fault or Negligence”[2], thereby allowing for a reduction of the sanction down to a minimum of one year, or should the decision of the Tribunal be upheld? In its award, the CAS panel decided to grant such finding and reduced the sanction to 15 months.

This blog does not purport to be a ‘comment’ on the CAS award. Rather, it seeks to place the Sharapova matter into a broader context with respect to a specific issue: the expectations on Athletes when it comes to their awareness of the prohibited character of a substance, specifically when taking a medication[3]. In July 2016, I presented at the T.M.C Asser Institute in The Hague various current challenges of anti-doping that the Meldonium cases exposed (see the video here). One of these challenges concerned the modalities for including new substances onto the Prohibited List. This blog represents a follow-up on my presentation, in the light of the findings contained in the CAS award. More...

Case note: State aid Decision on the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona

On 28 September 2016, the Commission published the non-confidential version of its negative Decision and recovery order regarding the preferential corporate tax treatment of Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna and FC Barcelona. It is the second-to-last publication of the Commission’s Decisions concerning State aid granted to professional football clubs, all announced on 4 July of this year.[1] Contrary to the other “State aid in football” cases, this Decision concerns State aid and taxation, a very hot topic in today’s State aid landscape. Obviously, this Decision will not have the same impact as other prominent tax decisions, such as the ones concerning Starbucks and Apple


This case dates back to November 2009, when a representative of a number of investors specialised in the purchase of publicly listed shares, and shareholders of a number of European football clubs drew the attention of the Commission to a possible preferential corporate tax treatment of the four mentioned Spanish clubs.[2]More...

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

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.

The Headlines

September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International Skating Union.More...

De- or Re-regulating the middlemen? The DFB’s regulation of intermediaries under EU law scrutiny at the OLG Frankfurt. By Antoine Duval and Kester Mekenkamp.

Football intermediaries, or agents, are again under attack in the news. For some, corrupt behaviour has become endemic in football’s culture. It is always dangerous to scapegoat a whole profession or a group of people. Many intermediaries are trying their best to lawfully defend the interests of their clients, but some are not. The key focus should be on providing an adequate legal and administrative framework to limit the opportunities for corrupt behaviour in the profession. This is easier said than done, however. We are dealing with an intrinsically transnationalized business, often conducted by intermediaries who are not subjected to the disciplinary power of federations. Sports governing bodies are lacking the police power and human resources necessary to force the intermediaries to abide by their private standards. In this context, this blog aims to review a recent case in front of the regional court of Frankfurt in Germany, which highlights the legal challenges facing (and leeway available to) national federations when regulating the profession. More...

Case note: TAS 2016/A/4474 Michel Platini c. Fédération Internationale de Football Association. By Marine Montejo

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

On 3 June 2015, Sepp Blatter resigned as President of FIFA after another corruption scandal inside the world’s football governing body was brought to light by the American authorities supported by the Swiss prosecutor office. Two months after Michel Platini announced he would be a candidate for the next FIFA Presidential election, on 25 September 2015, the Swiss prosecutor opened an investigation against S. Blatter on an alleged disloyal payment he authorised to M. Platini. On 8 October 2015, the FIFA Ethics Committee announced both of them were provisionally suspended upon their hearings, a suspension that was later confirmed by CAS. In the end, M. Platini was sanctioned with an eight years ban from all football activities, later reduced to a six years ban by FIFA Appeal Commission on 24 February 2016. In the meantime, he withdrew his candidacy to become the next FIFA President. On 9 May 2016, after M. Platini appealed this sanction, the CAS confirmed the suspension but reduced it to four years, leading to his resignation from the UEFA presidency and the announcement of his intention to challenge the CAS award in front of the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

On 19 September, the CAS finally published the full text of the award in the dispute between M. Platini and FIFA. The award is in French as M. Platini requested that the procedure be conducted in that language. You will find below a summary of the ‘highlights’ of the 63-page decision. More...

The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act V: Saving the last (Russian) woman standing: The Klishina miracle

Editor's note: This is the (belated) fifth part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio. The other acts are available at:

Act V: Saving the last (Russian) woman standing: The Klishina miracle 

Darya Klishina is now an Olympic celebrity. She will enter the history books not because she won a gold medal or beat a world record. Instead, her idiosyncrasy lies in her nationality: she was the sole Russian athlete authorized to stand in the athletics competitions at the Rio Olympics. And yet, a few days before the start of the long jumping contest in which she was due to take part, the IAAF surprisingly decided to revoke her eligibility (‘And Then There Were None’). But Klishina appealed the decision to the CAS ad hoc Division and, as all of you well-informed sports lawyers will know, she was allowed to compete at the Olympics and finished at a decent ninth place of the long jump finals.

Two important questions are raised by this case:

  • Why did the IAAF changed its mind and decide to retract Klishina’s authorization to participate?
  • Why did the CAS overturn this decision? More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Operación Puerto Strikes Back!

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

Operación Puerto Strikes Back!

Forget the European Championship currently held in France or the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio. Doping scandals are making the headlines more than ever in 2016. From tennis star Sharapova receiving a two-year ban for her use of the controversial ‘meldonium’, to the seemingly never-ending doping scandals in athletics. As if this was not enough, a new chapter was added on 14 June to one of the most infamous and obscure doping sagas in history: the Operación Puerto.

The special criminal appeal chamber,  the Audiencia Provincial, has held that the more than 200 blood bags of professional athletes that have been at the center of the investigations since 2006 can be delivered to the relevant sporting authorities, such as the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency (AEPSAD), WADA, the UCI and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). In other words, there is now a good chance that the identities of the involved athletes might eventually be revealed.


This case note will analyze the court’s ruling and summarize its most important findings. Given the amount of time passed since the scandal first came to light (2004), the blog will commence with a short background summary of the relevant facts. 


The saga can be traced back to the interview by the Spanish sports newspaper AS with the cyclist Jesus Manzano in 2004. During the interview, Manzano admitted that he, as well as other members of his team (Kelme), were involved in blood doping practices, and denounced his team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes as the mastermind behind the operations.[1] As a result of his declarations, Manzano became the victim of regular abuse by the “professional cycling world” and even received death threats. Manzano reported the death threats to the Guardia Civil (a Spanish law enforcement agency), who saw itself obliged to investigate the matter. The results of the Guardia Civil’s investigation proved that the information provided by Manzano regarding names, locations and practices were correct. However, the scope of the Guardia Civil’s investigations was limited due to the fact that, according to Spanish law in force at the time, doping was not considered a criminal offence.

On 23 May 2006, several people were arrested, including doctor Fuentes, who was accused of committing a “crime against public health” enshrined in Article 361 of the Spanish Criminal Code.[2] After his arrest, the Guardia Civil conducted domiciliary visits in the various domiciles owned by Fuentes, in which it found over 200 blood and plasma samples. The blood and plasma bags were labelled with coded names, in order not to reveal the true identity of Fuentes’ clients. Nonetheless, it was clear that Fuentes’ network was much more extensive than previously anticipated and that he had hundreds of clients, from a variety of sports and nationalities.

The relevant SGBs, such as WADA, petitioned for the blood samples to be analysed and all the identities revealed, with the aim of sanctioning the athletes involved. The Spanish public authorities, however, denied the SGBs requests[3], claiming that handing over the blood samples would breach the athletes’ right to privacy and reiterating that athletes involved in doping practices were not (at the time) committing any criminal offence according to Spanish law.

A long-awaited judgment was finally delivered[4] by the Madrid criminal court on 29 April 2013, a judgment which raised many eyebrows worldwide (see for example this critical analysis by the French newspaper Le Monde). Fuentes received a one-year prison sentence for committing a crime against public health and was suspended for four years from practicing sport medicine. More importantly, the court ordered the destruction of the blood samples, as well as other pieces of evidence, such as documents and recorded telephone conversations once the decision becomes final.[5] Given that the case was not about a doping offense but about a crime against public health, the court argued, the investigation of the blood samples would be in breach of the privacy rights of the athletes.

The judgment was appealed by several parties, including Fuentes and the SGBs (AEPSAD, WADA, UCI and CONI). Fuentes demanded to be acquitted, whereas the SGBs appealed the order to have the blood samples destroyed.  

Sentencia Nº 302/2016 of 14 June 2016

The Audiencia Provincial made its judgment public on 14 June 2016. The judgment consists of 23 different appeals by different parties. This case note, however, will only analyze section 18 (on the question whether blood is considered a medicine) and section 21 (regarding the blood and plasma samples). 

Section 18 – Is blood a medicine?

The answer to this question was highly relevant for Fuentes’ appeal against the prison sentence. Article 361 of the Spanish Criminal Code provides inter alia that a person who offers medicine in unauthorized locations[6] or does not fulfill the relevant hygiene criteria, shall be punished with an imprisonment from six months to three years.[7] Fuentes argued that blood extracted from an athlete, which is later injected back into the athlete, was legally not considered a medicine in 2006.

The court firstly established that the Criminal Code does not legally define “medicine”, meaning that the definition needed to be found in administrative laws,[8] such as the Medicine Law[9]. This law stipulates that blood derivatives could be considered medicine, but blood as a whole cannot.[10] The court also looked for a definition in EU law, more specifically EU Council Directive 98/381/CEE laying down special provisions for medicinal products derived from human blood or human plasma. Article 1, point 2, holds that whole blood, plasma or blood cells of human origin are outside the scope of the Directive. Having established that the blood and plasma samples found in Fuentes’ domiciles cannot be considered medicine, the court concluded that the doctor could subsequently not be punished for committing a crime against public health as stipulated in Article 361 of the Criminal Code. A punishment of any kind would be contrary to the “principle of legality”.[11] 

Section 21 – blood and plasma samples

The RFEC, WADA, UCI and CONI wanted to see the destruction order of the blood and plasma samples overturned and, instead, the samples delivered to them.[12]  Importantly, both the criminal court in first instance and the Audiencia Provincial recognized that a possible doping investigation by the SGBs after a handover of the blood samples would be an administrative procedure, rather than a criminal procedure such as in the case at hand.[13]

However, the first instance court had also indicated that the SGBs could not use the blood samples, because administrative sanctioning procedures do not allow this type of evidence to be used. To reach this conclusion, the court in first instance referred to an administrative law case involving disciplinary proceedings against a magistrate. In that case, recorded phone conversations were not deemed receivable evidence because of a breach of privacy, which would infringe Article 8 of the ECHR. The court transposed this reasoning to Operación Puerto and held that using the blood samples for an administrative proceeding was inadmissible.

The Audiencia Provincial did not follow this reasoning. Instead it referred to criminal case law, which established a difference between the recording of phone conversations on the one hand and domiciliary visits on the other. So-called “casual findings” during domiciliary visits of evidence for crimes that were not the ones the visits were authorized for, can still be used as evidence. In fact, the blood and plasma bags cannot be considered “casual findings”, since the public authorities were authorized to undertake the domiciliary visits to find evidence for an alleged crime against public health. Moreover, contrary to the recording of phone conversations which is only authorized in case of a penal procedure, domiciliary visits are measures that could also be authorized in administrative procedures.[14]  In other words, this type of evidence obtained in the framework of a criminal procedure can also be used in an administrative disciplinary procedure, such as doping cases.

As regards the transfer of the blood and plasma samples to an SGB, the court stated the following: In accordance with the provisions of the 2013 anti-doping laws, the samples can be handed over to the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency. The Agency would need to submit a formal request to a court, and the court would consider the request taking into account the principle of proportionality.[15]  The Audiencia Provincial considers that a transfer of the blood samples could be proportionate since it pursues the objective of fighting against doping. This is so because: doping use is contrary to the ethical values of sport, which are fair play and competition. Not allowing the transfer of the blood and plasma samples would give the impression that doping is not really a problem and might indicate that in sports the end justify the means.[16]  


On the day the judgment was released, AEPSAD expressed its satisfaction with the Audiencia Provincial’s decision and stated that it is studying the possible measures it can now take, either by itself or together with the other SGBs referred to in the judgment. WADA too acknowledged the court “for having reached the decision to provide anti-doping authorities with this crucial evidence”, but also stated that it is “dismayed that it took so long to receive the decision”. Finally, UCI regrets it had to wait this long for the decision, but will now partner with WADA, the RFEC, AEPSAD and CONI, to determine the legal options available with regards to analyzing the blood and plasma bags; and, where applicable, pursuing anti-doping rule violations.

In its press release, UCI points to the crucial question that will need an (un)satisfying answer: Can the SGBs still pursue anti-doping violations, or is too late? Article 17 of the 2015 WADA Code enshrines that the statute of limitations is 10 years. Coincidentally, it has been 10 years and two months since the arrests of Fuentes was made and Operación Puerto started taking shape. It is therefore unlikely that doping sanctions will be handed out on the basis of blood samples collected during the period 2002-2006. But simply discovering the identity of the doped athletes could have far-reaching consequences on its own. For example, when Bjarne Riis admitted in 2007 that he used EPO during his victorious 1996 Tour de France, the UCI was not able to sanction him anymore. However, the Tour de France organizing organization (ASO) has removed him as a past winner. Similar consequences are thinkable with the discoveries of the identities in the Operación Puerto case. Furthermore, Operación Puerto, widely recognized as the darkest chapter in the history of Spanish professional sport, can only truly be closed when the identities of the athletes are revealed. Publicly naming and shaming the athletes is an important mean to create a fairer competition and to prevent other athletes from doping themselves.  

[1] The actual interview with AS is not available anymore. A summary of the interview can be read at

[2] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, page 7. A few months later, in 2006, Article 361bis was added to the Spanish Penal Code, a provision that made doping a criminal offense.

[3] Cyclists, such as Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Óscar Sevilla were known to be among Fuentes’ clients, for the most part thanks to journalist investigations. The German cyclist Jörg Jaksche admitted voluntarily, and Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde received a suspension by the Italian Olympic Committee CONI in 2010.

[4] As can be seen from the 176-page judgment, the names of the suspects have been changed. For example, primary suspect Eufemanio Fuentes is called “Juan Máximo”.

[5] Sentencia del Juzgado Penal de Madrid Nº 144/203 de 29 de abril 2013, pages 175-176.

[6] A hospital, for example, would be considered an authorized location. A cycling team bus, or a hotel room, could be considered unauthorized locations for the offering of certain types of medicine.

[7] Artículo 361 Código Penal: “El que fabrique, importe, exporte, suministre, intermedie, comercialice, ofrezca o ponga en el mercado, o almacene con estas finalidades, medicamentos, incluidos los de uso humano y veterinario, así como los medicamentos en investigación, que carezcan de la necesaria autorización exigida por la ley, o productos sanitarios que no dispongan de los documentos de conformidad exigidos por las disposiciones de carácter general, o que estuvieran deteriorados, caducados o incumplieran las exigencias técnicas relativas a su composición, estabilidad y eficacia, y con ello se genere un riesgo para la vida o la salud de las personas, será castigado con una pena de prisión de seis meses a tres años, multa de seis a doce meses e inhabilitación especial para profesión u oficio de seis meses a tres años”.

[8] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, page 61.

[9] Ley 25/1990, de 20 de diciembre, del Medicamento.

[10] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, pages 59-61.

[11] Ibid., pages 69-73.

[12] Ibid., pages 76-77.

[13] Ibid., pages 78-79.

[14] Ibid., pages 80-81.

[15] Artículo 33(5) de la Ley Orgánica 3/2013, de 20 de junio, de protección de la salud del deportista y lucha contra el dopaje en la actividad deportiva: “La Agencia Española de Protección de la Salud en el Deporte podrá solicitar que le sean remitidas aquellas diligencias de instrucción practicadas que sean necesarias para la continuación de los procedimientos sancionadores. Dicha petición será resuelta por el Juez de instrucción, previa audiencia de los interesados, en el plazo de 20 días. En dicha audiencia los interesados podrán solicitar que sean también remitidos los documentos que les puedan beneficiar. La resolución del Juez será plenamente respetuosa con el principio de proporcionalidad, entregando a la Administración, mediante resolución motivada, únicamente las diligencias que la aplicación de tal principio autorice”.

[16] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, page 83.

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