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

Introducing the new legal challenges of E-Sports. By N. Emre Bilginoglu

Editor’s Note: Emre Bilginoglu[1] is an attorney in Istanbul and the co-founder of the Turkish E-Sports Players Association, a non-profit based in Istanbul that aims to provide assistance to professional gamers and to work on the relevant laws affecting them. 


The world is witnessing the rise of a new sport that is growing at an incredible speed: E-Sports. We are only starting to understand its legal implications and challenges.

In recent years, E-Sports has managed to attract thousands of fans to arenas to see a group of people play a video game. These people are literally professional gamers (cyber athletes)[2] who make money by competing in tournaments. Not all video games have tournaments in which professional players compete against each other.

The most played games in E-Sports competitions are League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). LoL and DotA are both Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, a genre of strategy video games in which the player controls a single character in one of two teams. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s main structure. CS:GO is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, a genre of video games where the player engages combat through a first-person perspective. The main objective in CS:GO is to eliminate the opposing team or to terrorize or counter-terrorize, planting bombs or rescuing hostages. Other games that have (popular) E-Sports competitions include Starcraft II (real time strategy), Hearthstone (collectible card video game), Call of Duty (FPS) and FIFA (football).

The gaming requires cooperation between team players, a high level of concentration, rapid reactions and some seriously fast clicking. E-Sports is a groovy term to describe organized competitive computer gaming. The E-Sports industry is exponentially growing, amounting to values expressed in billions of dollars. According to Newzoo, a website dedicated to the collection of E-Sports data, there are some 250 million occasional viewers of E-Sports with Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the total amount. The growth of the industry is indubitably supported by online streaming media platforms. This article aims to explain what E-Sports is and to give the readers an insight on the key legal questions raised by it. More...


Time for Transparency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. By Saverio Spera

Editor’s Note: Saverio Spera is an Italian lawyer and LL.M. graduate in International Business Law from King’s College London. He is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


The time is ripe to take a closer look at the CAS and its transparency, as this is one of the ways to ensure its public accountability and its legitimacy. From 1986 to 2013, the number of arbitrations submitted to the CAS has grown from 2 to more than 400 a year. More specifically, the number of appeals submitted almost doubled in less than ten years (from 175 in 2006, to 349 in 2013[1]). Therefore, the Court can be considered the judicial apex of an emerging transnational sports law (or lex sportiva).[2] In turn, the increased authority and power of this institution calls for increased transparency, in order to ensure its legitimacy.[3]

More...


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

Editor’s note: Emilio García (emilio.garcia@uefa.ch)  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...


Asser International Sports Law Blog | Should the CAS ‘let Dutee run’? Gender policies in Sport under legal scrutiny. By Thalia Diathesopoulou

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? 


‘Prove your gender!’

The separation between women and men in athletic competitions has been paradigmatic. Considering the sex-based physiological differences, which in case of a mixed competition would lead to virtually no women participation, the separation opened the door for women to compete at the highest levels. Nevertheless, the determination on the eligibility of women athletes to participate in the female category has become a source of controversies. So far, as decades of flawed IOC policies have demonstrated, it has not been clarified ‘who is woman’ for the purposes of sport.

The idea of ‘sex testing’ in sports dates back to 1960s and even preceded doping tests. The first gender test introduced by the IOC is nowadays laughable: nude parades of female competitors before a panel of judges in charge to verify the presence of female genitals and other sex characteristics.[3] Soon, this test was proven unworkable, since in intersex conditions, where people are born with both male and female genitalia, the outside did not match the inside.

The next test introduced was dubbed ‘chromosome testing’, which was based on the assumption that chromosomes are the key factor in determining sex, i.e. XY for male and XX for female. However, this test overlooked natural situations, where males have an extra X chromosome or females are missing one and was, therefore, soon abandoned. Thereafter, the SRY (i.e. the gene that triggers male sex determination) gene detection test was introduced, but the Olympics Games in Atlanta 1996 proved its deficiency:  eight women were tested positive for it and all were finally cleared for competition. Following this series of gender policies, which were deemed particularly discriminatory towards women with sexual development disorders, the IOC removed gender verification tests in June 1999.

It was not before 2009, in the wake of the Caster Semenya case, involving the South African 800m and 1500m runner and world champion, that an urgent need for reconsidering sex determination policies was brought into surface. Semenya’s masculine appearance, unusual muscle build and, foremost, her outstanding victory in the 2009 World Championships 800m race, fuelled a frenzy of suspicions on her gender. Following her victory, in an unprecedented breach of confidentiality and privacy rules, the IAAF leaked that Semenya had undergone tests to determine whether she had an unfair advantage as compared with other women. For three years, Semenya was not allowed to participate in events as her gender was still under investigation. In 2012, she was cleared by the gender testing committee and she began racing again. The story of Semenya, who suffered from humiliation and castigation by athletics officials and the media, unveiled IAAF’s incompetency in handling complex gender-related issues.

As a reply, in an attempt to establish an unambiguous, objective and scientifically based policy, IAAF and IOC, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, released new regulations. In that context, the focus shifted from sex testing to endogenous testosterone testing. The natural levels of testosterone have become the new golden rule: the purpose is not to determine ‘who is woman’, but rather ‘what makes a woman a woman’. Both policies are based on the assumption that testosterone is a key factor for men’s often superior strength and speed and, as a result, women with testosterone levels typical for males have an ‘unfair’ advantage. Therefore, according to the new regulations, if a female athlete has androgen levels higher than the normal male range, she is deemed ineligible to compete in women’s competition and will only be considered able to compete again if she lowers her testosterone level by means of medical or surgical treatment.

Despite IAAF’s protest to the contrary, this is the recent re-incarnation of ‘sex testing’.[4] The real import of these rules has been illustrated by the Dutee’s case. With Dutee’s appeal pending before the CAS, the legality of IAAF and IOC’s current gender policy needs to be scrutinized.


The unfair results of ‘fairness in sports’: The dark side of IAAF’s and IOC’s gender policy

Fair competition, which provides a fair opportunity to compete and prohibits athletes from competing with unfair advantages, has been widely accepted as a value integral to sports.[5] In this light, considering hyperandrogenism as an uncommon athletic capacity in relation to other female competitors, IAAF and IOC introduced the ineligibility of female athletes with hyperandrogenism in order to preserve the ‘sacrosanct’ competitive equality in the female category. However, it is our opinion that the current policy is on the borderline of what is fair for the following reasons: 

1. The ‘testosterone’ criterion as yardstick to determine eligibility?

According to the IAAF androgen policy, a general scientific consensus on naturally occurring testosterone as a relevant physical characteristic to separate athletes into different competition classes exists. The first problem is that this argument relies on the flawed assumption that a bright line between male and female can be drawn, not acknowledging situations of an ‘intersex’ status. As David Epstein, reporter and author of “The Sports Gene”, puts it clearly “neither body parts nor for the chromosome within them unequivocally differentiate male from female athletes”. Furthermore, while IAAF relies on a binary perception of biological sex in order to identify the gender of athletes, gender, in fact, is a social construction, which does not correspond to the complexities of biological sex. Secondly, it relies on the assumption that testosterone levels in the human body have limited variability within the sexes. Nevertheless, recent studies have found a complete overlap between testosterone levels in elite men and women, ripping apart testosterone levels as a reliable factor for separating between sexes.  The third problem is the lack of supporting scientific evidence that a competitive advantage can derive from high natural levels of testosterone.[6] Indeed, the scientific understanding of testosterone receptors is far from comprehensive. A recent research supported by the Swiss WADA laboratory added to the uncertainty: “Unfortunately, and to the best of our knowledge, there are neither available data on serum androgen levels nor reliable statistics on the so-called hyperandrogenism among a large and high-level female athletes’ population”.

IAAF policy, in overall, seems to create an absurd result: instead of introducing an objective criterion-if any- for separating between men and women, it rather suggests a classification of athletes between ‘high testosterone’ and ‘low testosterone’. However, ‘High-T’ and ‘Low-T’ categories of competition are not on the agenda.  

2. IAAF policy fosters discrimination

The current policy suggests a discriminatory treatment: it targets only women suspected for hyperandrogenism due to their physical appearance and high levels of performance. Women are asked to prove that they are female, while there is no such a requirement or restriction for men.

Furthermore, the fundament itself of the androgen policy is discriminatory against women who do not conform to traditional notions of femininity. Indeed, it lays on the physiological superiority of men in terms of endurance and strength as compared to women, perpetuating the long-established perception that an intrinsic link between manliness and sport exists, while femininity is associated with more gentle exercise.[7] In IAAF’s view, ‘too masculine women’ do not belong to the female category. It seems that under a scientifically based guise, IAAF seeks to impose a preference for certain social norms regarding what constitutes femininity in a woman’s appearance as criteria for participation.[8]

However, in order to perceive the level of discrimination, the most important question to be addressed is how you qualify an athlete. Hyperandrogenism is a rare biological characteristic and according to IAAF regulations and controversial scientific evidence, it gives female athletes a natural advantage that other female athletes do not have. Similarly, long limbs, broad wingspan for swimmers and height for basketball players are natural advantages.[9] Nevertheless, the later ones, but for hyperandrogenism, have never been considered as unfair. Indeed, the quintessence of elite sports lays on the participation of individuals with rare biological characteristics. In this light, the inevitable question arises: Why should female athletes like Dutee be obliged to reduce or eliminate an inherent advantage that they are born with? Why is then nobody asking a swimmer like Phelps to operate his double-jointed ankles? Or as SAI director-general Juji Thomson remarked: “ Just because Usain Bolt's height is to his advantage will the international authorities want his legs chopped off to ensure a level-playing field?” In other words, why hyperandrogenism has been viewed as different to other biological advantages broadly accepted in some elite athletes? The answer is simple: IAAF’s policy reflects the well-established public perception of femininity and female athletes who do not conform to this norm have to be excluded or ‘feminise’ themselves.

Thereby, IAAF and IOC policy exacerbate bullying and marginalization of women in sports putting their physical difference under unethical and humiliating scrutiny. Semenya had been intruded into the toilets by competitors seeking to check whether she really was a girl. While, after a race in Berlin, her competitor Mariya Savinova sneered “just look at her” when she was asked whether Semenya was a man. Similarly, the most talented female athletes, such as Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, WNBA player Brittney Griner– and the catalogue is really long-, have been accused of not really being female. This play is up again with IAAF’s ‘are you woman enough to compete as female?’ policy seeking to confer legality to discrimination.

What should not be overlooked, finally, is the bitter truth that the current IAAF policy inevitably targets in priority women from developing countries. Athletes like Semenya or Dutee never perceived their difference, until they appeared on track field courts, where this difference has been flagged in the most humiliating way as abnormality. In sharp contrast to IOC’s declarations on eliminating any kind of discrimination in sports, IAAF and IOC gender policy achieves the most undesirable result: sex and social discrimination ‘all-in-one’. 

3. The disproportionate results of IAAF’s policy: To undergo treatment or not? This is not a question!

Female athletes with hyperandrogenism are faced with two choices: undergo medical treatment to fit the IAAF ‘Procrustean bed’ or abandon female competitions. The disproportionate and unfair consequences are evident.

As Katrina Karkazis, pioneer of Dutee’s motion against IAAF, remarks, the IAAF and IOC treat a physical difference as an illness, which requires a medical response. However, the necessity of such an invasive medical, or surgical, intervention is highly questionable. The suggested treatment does not stop at lowering female athletes’ testosterone level below IAAF’s limit of 10nmol/liter, but it rather aims to eliminate hyperandrogenism. In this sense, sharing IAAF’s assumption that testosterone is the key to performance, such treatment will render athletes like Dutee less competitive than other women who do not have hyperandrogenism or whose hyperandrogenism is below the cut-off. Thereby, IAAF policy, albeit mandating fairness in competition, puts a disproportionate burden on female athletes with hyperandrogenism.

Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the medical effects of the treatment suggested. In fact, it has been argued that long-term hormone therapy can have devastating results on female athletes’ health. Dutee’s denial to undergo this treatment is far from a ‘caprice’. A study published in 2013 revealed the cases of four female athletes identified as having hyperandrogenism, who were sent to a clinic in France. It was reported that those athletes also had medical procedures that had nothing to do with lowering their testosterone levels for sports: a reduction to the size of their clitorises, feminizing plastic surgery and oestrogen replacement therapy. It seems that the IAAF is pulling the trigger on female athletes’ head, who are ready to accept any treatment- even the most questionable ones- in order to keep competing.

On the other hand, the ineligibility sanction leads to a further disproportionate result: If Dutee is considered too masculine to compete in the female category, does she qualify for the male category? Can the mere presence of higher testosterone levels in a female athlete’s body presume that she can compete as a man? The answer has to be answered in negative, notwithstanding the ‘fair play’ issues that may arise. IAAF and IOC rules are cruelly disproportionate: athletes like Dutee who refuse to undergo this questionable treatment are effectively left without a forum to display their talent.


Do it like Pistorius

So far, the IAAF and IOC policy have been shown scientifically shaky, discriminatory and disproportionate. In parallel with these arguments, Dutee has also a very important precedent to rely upon: the CAS ruling in the Pistorius case.

In 2008, Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee runner, challenged IAAF rules that prohibited competitive running on ‘cheetah’ legs in international IAAF-sanctioned events alongside able-bodied athlete as being in breach of its commitment to non-discrimination. In that case, the fundamental rights of disabled athletes to be adequately accommodated and have genuinely equal opportunity to compete were at issue. Pistorius had to prove that he gained no advantage from using the prostheses. Reviewing scientific testing and analysis, the CAS concluded that ‘Cheetah’ legs did not give Pistorius an overall advantage.

Although the ‘tailor-made’ effect of the award could raise serious criticism[10], the Pistorius case has been landmark from a twofold point of view. Firstly, the CAS did not hesitate to challenge the indeterminacy of scientific analysis and developed the ‘net advantage’ approach, which stipulates that both the benefits and burdens have to be taken into consideration in determining whether a device provides an advantage to an athlete who uses it.[11] A similar approach has been adopted in the Veerpalu doping case, where the CAS questioned the scientific reliability of the limits applied for the WADA human growth hormone test (HGH).[12] Pistorius and Veerpalu cases have set an important threshold: international sports governing bodies, when it comes to enforce scientific- related sanctions, should rely on scientifically well-founded assessments.

Secondly, the CAS took an extraordinary step. It sent a clear message to international federations that they must address the eligibility criteria surrounding disabled athletes in a transparent and impartial manner.[13] There is no reason why the CAS in the Dutee case would do it differently. After all, sporting rules that seek to ensure fair competition and prevent a competitor from obtaining an unfair advantage have at least to be proportionate and non-discriminatory. 


Let Dutee Run?

The lines between male and female are blurring. As Fausto-Sterling has observed “the reason sports federations can’t get this right is because there is no right”.[14] Sports governing bodies may never be able to ensure fair competition without reaching absurd results.[15] In its daunting task to legally enforce controversial science related and ethical issues, CAS is facing a double challenge. It has the opportunity to set fair and accurate eligibility rules based on objective criteria, which will also preserve the essence of sports. Undoubtedly, sports governing bodies have the authority to establish their eligibility rules. However, self-regulation does not come without limits: sports federations’ rules have to comply with the non-discrimination clauses included in their statutes[16] and the IOC charter. The role of the CAS in monitoring the compliance of these regulations with non-discrimination norms is essential. Therefore, in some cases, CAS has to leave its ‘comfort-zone’: it has to deviate from its well-established practice to provide a significant degree of deference to sports governing bodies with regard to their authority to establish the eligibility rules and rather applies a ‘fairness’ requirement on a case-by-case basis, such as in the Pistorius case.

More importantly, CAS has the chance to finally flesh out the toothless IAAF and IOC commitments to gender equality. Dutee’s case is a fertile ground for an interpretation in the light and purpose of the recent UN resolution on sport and the proclaimed values underpinning the Olympic 2020 Agenda. After all, what is the point of trumpeting non-discrimination in sports, if, in 2014, a female athlete is deemed ‘not woman enough’ to compete with women?

Whatever the CAS decides, one thing remains certain: discrimination against women with sexual development specificities will not anymore be in the blind spot of the law. Dutee showed the way.



[1] IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition - In force as from 1st May 2011 ,  Article 6.8 <http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/medical >

[2] Dr Ben Koh, Daryl Adair and  Peter Sonksen OBE, ‘Testosterone, sex and gender differentiation in sport – where science and sports law meet’ (14 October 2014) <http://www.lawinsport.com/articles/item/testosterone-sex-and-gender-differentiation-in-sport-where-science-and-sports-law-meet>

[3]  J Ellison, ‘Caster Semenya And The IOC’s Olympics Gender Bender’ (26 July 2012) <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/26/caster-semenya-and-the-ioc-s-olympics-gender-bender.html>

[4] R Pielke, ‘Dutee Chand, science and the spirit of sport: why IAAF policy is deeply flawed’ (20 October 2014) <http://www.sportingintelligence.com/2014/10/20/dutee-chand-science-and-the-spirit-of-sport-why-iaaf-policy-is-deeply-flawed-201001/>

[5] P Zettler, ‘Is It Cheating to Use the Cheetahs? The Implications of Technologically Innovative Prostheses for Sports Values and Rules’ (2009) 27 Boston University International Law Journal, 389.

[6] M Naimark, ‘A New Study Supports Female Athletes Unfairly Excluded From Sport’ (12 September 2014) <http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/09/12/sex_verification_in_sports_a_new_study_supports_unfairly_excluded_female.html>

[7] Dr Ben Koh,Daryl Adair and  Peter Sonksen OBE (n 2)

[8] R Pielke (n 4)

[9] For a very interesting comparison of the physiques between athletes from a wide range of different sports and competitions, see Howard Schatz’s Athlete series.

[10] CAS 2008/A/1480 Pistorius v/ IAAF (16 May 2008), para 56.

[11] CAS 2008/A/1480 Pistorius v/ IAAF (16 May 2008), para 36.

[12] M Viret and E Wisnosky, ‘Sinkewitz v. Veerpalu: Struggling to fit anti-doping science into a legal framework’ (19 March 2014) < http://wadc-commentary.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/WADC_COMMENTARY_Sinkewitz-Blog.pdf>

[13] Cornelius, 236

[14] J Ellison (n 3).

[15] P Zettler (n 5), 394.

[16] For instance, IAAF Constitution 2011, Art 3: “The Objects of IAAF are (…) 4. To strive to ensure that no gender, race, religious, political or other kind of unfair discrimination exists, continues to exist, or is allowed to develop in Athletics in any form, and that all may participate in Athletics regardless of their gender, race, religious or political views or any other irrelevant factor.”

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