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

Blog Symposium: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment. By Marjolaine Viret and Emily Wisnosky

Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

Editor's Note
Marjolaine Viret: An attorney-at-law at the Geneva bar, specialising in sports and health law. Her doctoral work in anti-doping was awarded a summa cum laude by the University of Fribourg in early 2015. She gained significant experience in sports arbitration as a senior associate in one of Switzerland’s leading law firms, advising clients, including major sports federations, on all aspects of anti-doping. She also holds positions within committees in sports organisations and has been involved in a variety of roles in the implementation of the 2015 WADC. Her book “Evidence in Anti-Doping at the Intersection of Science & Law” is scheduled for publication in 2015.

Emily Wisnosky: An attorney-at-law admitted to the California bar, she currently participates in the WADC 2015 Commentary research project as a doctoral researcher. She also holds an LLM from the University of Geneva in International Dispute Settlement, with a focus on sports arbitration. Before studying law, she worked as a civil engineer. More...

Blog Symposium: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies. By Herman Ram

Introduction: The new WADA Code 2015
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

Editor's note
Herman Ram is the Chief Executive Officer of the Anti-Doping Authority the Netherlands, which is the National Anti-Doping Organization of the country. He has held this position since 2006. After working twelve years as a librarian, Herman Ram started his career in sport management in 1992, when he became Secretary general of the Royal Netherlands Chess Federation. In 1994, he moved on to the same position at the Netherlands Badminton Federation. He was founder and first secretary of the Foundation for the Promotion of Elite Badminton that was instrumental in the advancement of Dutch badminton. In 2000 he was appointed Secretary general of the Netherlands Ski Federation, where he focused, among other things, on the organization of large snowsports events in the Netherlands. Since his appointment as CEO of the Anti-Doping Authority, he has developed a special interest in legal, ethical and managerial aspects of anti-doping policies, on which he has delivered numerous presentations and lectures. On top of that, he acts as Spokesperson for the Doping Authority. Herman Ram holds two Master’s degrees, in Law and in Sport Management. More...

Blog Symposium: The new WADA Code 2015 - Introduction

Day 1: The impact of the revised World Anti-Doping Code on the work of National Anti-Doping Agencies
Day 2: The “Athlete Patient” and the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code: Competing Under Medical Treatment
Day 3: Proof of intent (or lack thereof) under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code
Day 4: Ensuring proportionate sanctions under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

On 1 January, a new version of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC or Code) entered into force. This blog symposium aims at taking stock of this development and at offering a preliminary analysis of the key legal changes introduced. The present blog will put the WADC into a more general historical and political context. It aims to briefly retrace the emergence of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its Code. It will also reconstruct the legislative process that led to the adoption of the WADC 2015 and introduce the various contributions to the blog symposium.More...

To pay or not to pay? That is the question. The case of O’Bannon v. NCAA and the struggle of student athletes in the US. By Zlatka Koleva

Editor's note
Zlatka Koleva is a graduate from the Erasmus University Rotterdam and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

The decision on appeal in the case of O’Bannon v. NCAA seems, at first sight, to deliver answers right on time regarding the unpaid use of names, images and likenesses (NILs) of amateur college athletes, which has been an ongoing debate in the US after last year’s district court decision that amateur players in the college games deserve to receive compensation for their NILs.[1] The ongoing struggle for compensation in exchange for NILs used in TV broadcasts and video games in the US has reached a turning point and many have waited impatiently for the final say of the Court of Appeal for the 9th circuit. The court’s ruling on appeal for the 9th circuit, however, raises more legitimate concerns for amateur sports in general than it offers consolation to unprofessional college sportsmen. While the appellate court agreed with the district court that NCAA should provide scholarships amounting to the full cost of college attendance to student athletes, the former rejected deferred payment to students of up to 5,000 dollars for NILs rights. The conclusions reached in the case relate to the central antitrust concerns raised by NCAA, namely the preservation of consumer demand for amateur sports and how these interests can be best protected under antitrust law. More...

The European Commission’s ISU antitrust investigation explained. By Ben Van Rompuy

In June 2014, two prominent Dutch speed skaters, Mark Tuitert (Olympic Champion 1500m) and Niels Kerstholt (World Champion short track), filed a competition law complaint against the International Skating Union (ISU) with the European Commission.

ChanceToCompeteTwitter.png (50.4KB)

Today, the European Commission announced that it has opened a formal antitrust investigation into International Skating Union (ISU) rules that permanently ban skaters from competitions such as the Winter Olympics and the ISU World and European Championships if they take part in events not organised or promoted by the ISU. The Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, stated that the Commission "will investigate if such rules are being abused to enforce a monopoly over the organisation of sporting events or otherwise restrict competition. Athletes can only compete at the highest level for a limited number of years, so there must be good reasons for preventing them to take part in events."

Since the case originates from legal advice provided by the ASSER International Sports Law Centre, we thought it would be helpful to provide some clarifications on the background of the case and the main legal issues at stake. More...

Interview with Wil van Megen (Legal Director of FIFPro) on FIFPro’s EU Competition Law complaint against the FIFA Transfer System

Editor’s note
Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government in labour issues.

Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe. More...

The Scala reform proposals for FIFA: Old wine in new bottles?

Rien ne va plus at FIFA. The news that FIFA’s Secretary General Jérôme Valcke was put on leave and released from his duties has been quickly overtaken by the opening of a criminal investigation targeting both Blatter and Platini.

With FIFA hopping from one scandal to the next, one tends to disregard the fact that it has been attempting (or rather pretending) to improve the governance of the organisation for some years now. In previous blogs (here and here), we discussed the so-called ‘FIFA Governance Reform Project’, a project carried out by the Independent Governance Committee (IGC) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Mark Pieth of the Basel Institute on Governance. Their third and final report, published on 22 April 2014, listed a set of achievements made by FIFA in the area of good governance since 2011, such as establishing an Audit and Compliance Committee (A&C). However, the report also indicated the reform proposals that FIFA had not met. These proposals included the introduction of term limits for specific FIFA officials (e.g. the President) as well as introducing an integrity review procedure for all the members of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and the Standing Committees. More...

Why the CAS #LetDuteeRun: the Proportionality of the Regulation of Hyperandrogenism in Athletics by Piotr Drabik

Editor's note
Piotr is an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.


On 24 July the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued its decision in the proceedings brought by the Indian athlete Ms. Dutee Chand against the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in which she challenged the validity of the IAAF Regulations Governing Eligibility of Female with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition (Regulations). The Regulations were established in 2011 as a response to the controversies surrounding South African athlete Caster Semenya (see e.g. here, here, and here), and for the purpose of safeguarding fairness in sport by prohibiting women with hyperandrogenism, i.e. those with excessive levels of endogenous (naturally occurring) testosterone, from competing in women athletics competitions. Owing to the subject-matter that the Regulations cover, the case before the CAS generated complex legal, scientific and ethical questions. The following case note thus aims at explaining how the Panel addressed the issues raised by the Indian athlete. It follows a previous blog we published in December 2014 that analysed the arguments raised in favour of Ms. Chand. More...

Not comfortably satisfied? The upcoming Court of Arbitration for Sport case of the thirty-four current and former players of the Essendon football club. By James Kitching

Editor's note: James Kitching is Legal Counsel and Secretary to the AFC judicial bodies at the Asian Football Confederation. James is an Australian and Italian citizen and one of the few Australians working in international sports law. He is admitted as barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of South Australia. James graduated from the International Master in the Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport offered by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport in July 2012.


On 12 May 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had filed an appeal against the decision issued by the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal (AADT) that thirty-four current and former players of Essendon Football Club (Essendon) had not committed any anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) identified within the AFL Anti-Doping Code (AADC). The players had each been charged with using Thymosin-Beta 4 (TB4) during the 2012 AFL season.

On 1 June 2015, WADA announced that it had filed an appeal against the decision by the AADT to clear Mr. Stephen Dank (Dank), a sports scientist employed at Essendon during the relevant period, of twenty-one charges of violating the AADC. Dank was, however, found guilty of ten charges and banned for life.

This blog will solely discuss the likelihood of the first AADT decision (the Decision) being overturned by the CAS. It will briefly summarise the facts, discuss the applicable rules and decision of the AADT, review similar cases involving ‘non-analytical positive’ ADRVs relating to the use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method, and examine whether the Code of Sports-related Arbitration (CAS Code) is able to assist WADA in its appeal.

This blog will not examine the soap opera that was the two years leading-up to the Decision. Readers seeking a comprehensive factual background should view the excellent up-to-date timeline published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. More...

EU Law is not enough: Why FIFA's TPO ban survived its first challenge before the Brussels Court

Star Lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont is almost a monopolist as far as high profile EU law and football cases are concerned. This year, besides a mediatised challenge against UEFA’s FFP regulations, he is going after FIFA’s TPO ban on behalf of the Spanish and Portuguese leagues in front of the EU Commission, but also before the Brussels First Instance Court defending the infamous Malta-based football investment firm Doyen Sport. FIFA and UEFA’s archenemy, probably electrified by the 20 years of the Bosman ruling, is emphatically trying to reproduce his world-famous legal prowess. Despite a first spark at a success in the FFP case against UEFA with the Court of first instance of Brussels sending a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), this has proven to be a mirage as the CJEU refused, as foretold, to answer the questions of the Brussels Court, while the provisory measures ordered by the judge have been suspended due to UEFA’s appeal. But, there was still hope, the case against FIFA’s TPO ban, also involving UEFA and the Belgium federation, was pending in front of the same Brussels Court of First Instance, which had proven to be very willing to block UEFA’s FFP regulations. Yet, the final ruling is another disappointment for Dupont (and good news for FIFA). The Court refused to give way to Doyen’s demands for provisional measures and a preliminary reference. The likelihood of a timely Bosman bis repetita is fading away. Fortunately, we got hold of the judgment of the Brussels court and it is certainly of interest to all those eagerly awaiting to know whether FIFA’s TPO ban will be deemed compatible or not with EU law. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Dahmane v KRC Genk: Bosman 2.0 or Storm in a Teacup?

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

Dahmane v KRC Genk: Bosman 2.0 or Storm in a Teacup?

Mohamed Dahmane is a professional football player of French-Algerian origin, who has played for a variety of European clubs, including French club US Mauberge, Belgian club RAEC Mons and Turkish club Bucaspor. However, he will mostly be remembered as the player whose legal dispute with his former club (Belgian club KRC Genk) revived the debate on football players’ labour rights.  

Journalists wasted no time in comparing it to the Bosman case.[1] Fair enough, Dahmane and Bosman do show some striking similarities: the two cases concerned players employed by mediocre Belgian football clubs claiming their right to be treated as normal workers. Furthermore, in both cases the respective Courts met (to a large extend) the players’ demands. The Bosman case not only changed labour conditions for all footballers, it shook the whole transfer system. In Dahmane, the case is essentially about whether it is justifiable to have a special law that obliges professional football players who unilaterally break their players’ contract to compensate their club for up to 36 months of salary. After all, “normal” workers are only obliged to pay a 12 months of salary compensation in an identical situation. Whether the Dahmane case will have the same weight as Bosman depends on the effects of the judgment on footballers in Belgium, but also on the European football sector in general. Therefore, a close look at the ruling is needed to understand its potential consequences.

Dahmane signed a four-year contract with KRC Genk on 1 July 2007, he then unilaterally terminated the contract in January 2008 following a row with his coach. Due to the contract termination, KRC Genk demanded a compensation amounting to EUR 878.888,88. The demand was based on Articles 4 § 4 and 5 § 2 of the Law for Professional Athletes and the Royal Decree of 13 July 2004. Indeed, according to the Royal Decree, the compensation had to be equal to 36 months of salary. Dahmane disagreed with KRC Genk’s demands and argued that the compensation should be calculated in accordance with Article 40 § 1 of the general Labour Agreements Law. Pursuant to this Article the severance pay can only amount to a maximum of 12 months of salary.

In a judgment of 25 May 2009, the Labour Court (Court of first instance) concurred with the demands of KRC Genk and ordered Dahmane to compensate KRC Genk for EUR 878.888,88.

Dahmane placed an appeal with The Court of Labour arguing that Article 4 § 4 of the Law for Professional Athletes and the Royal Decree breached Articles 10 and 11 of the Belgian Constitution on equal treatment and non-discrimination.[2] KRC Genk, for its part, argued that the difference between labour agreements of professional footballers on the one hand and “normal” labour agreements on the other is based on the ‘specific character of labour agreements of professional footballers and the specific character of sport in general’. Thus, the ‘specificity of sport’ would imply a special status for sport, whereby ‘normal’ law (i.e. the general Labour Agreements Law) cannot be applied unabridged. KRC Genk highlighted that to achieve the objectives inherent to football, which include avoiding competition distortions and the preservation of the stability of participating sport clubs, certain specific measures, such as the Royal Decree of 2004, can be taken in order to safeguard the legal certainty of labour relationships in the sport sector.[3]

The Court of Labour dismissed the arguments raised by KRC Genk, and held that the Royal Decree applies to all professional sports, not only to football, thereby denying validity to RKC Genk’s claims on the specificity of football.[4]

The Court agreed with KRC Genk that sport exhibits certain characteristics that can deviate from other labour relationships between employer and employee. However, the Royal Decree in question did not mention the specificity of sport in its text, nor does it provide any objective justifications as to why separate rules regarding compensation after a unilateral termination of a labour contract is necessary for the sport sector. Furthermore, the pursuit of financial profits, and the importance of preserving a fair competition have to be taken into account. Those economic objectives are not specific to the sport sector. Therefore, the Court saw no valid reason justifying a separate Royal Decree, when sport’s economic dimension can be equally covered by existing legislation. In other words, the same laws should be used to achieve the same objectives.[5]

As regards KRC Genk’s view that some rules preventing richer clubs from buying all the good players from smaller clubs, thereby distorting competition, are justifiable, the Court found that to be incorrect. Even though it is true that football’s transfer system is different from “normal” movement of workers, a distinction needs to be made between buying and selling of players on the one hand, and the unilateral termination of a player’s contract on the other hand. Here again the Court found the breach of the Constitutional Articles on equal treatment and non-discrimination based on the specificity of the football transfer system was not objectively justified in the Royal Decree.

The Court reminded the parties that the transfer system, which only allows two periods a year for clubs to buy and sell players, would limit the possibility for professional footballers to change clubs. Moreover, it highlighted that compensation equal to 12 months of salary comprises two transfer periods, and should therefore not be seen as unreasonable. Lastly, the Court took into account that the average career of a professional sportsman is relatively short (12 years according to KRC Genk and six to eight years according to Dahmane). A compensation amounting to 36 months of salary would, for many professional players, amount to 1/3 of the player’s revenue during his career and should therefore be deemed unjustifiable.[6]

Hence, the Court considered that a Royal Decree imposing a compensation of 36 months of salary on a player breaching his contract is disproportionate. Furthermore, the Court found the Royal Decree unjustifiable under the Constitutional principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination.

Dahmane revives a debate that has occupied academics in the fields of sports law, labour law and other fields of law for many decades. Is sport special and do its specificities oblige the European and national legislators to make laws that answer the specificities of sport? Should professional athletes be treated different from normal workers because sport is “special”? After Bosman, no transfer fees needed to be paid for players whose contract had ended and no limitations on the number of EU nationals were allowed to be imposed by the football clubs. In other words, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found professional footballers to be very much like normal workers. Similarly, the Dahmane case lead the Belgian Court of Labour to deny any difference between professional athletes and normal workers regarding compensation after a unilateral termination of the labour contract. Even though Dahmane, as appellant, had asked the Court to raise a preliminary question to the ECJ on the compatibility of the law with the free movement of workers[7], the Court decided the case under Belgian law only.[8] It is therefore highly unlikely that Dahmane will have the same transnational effect as Bosman and mass unilateral contract terminations by professional athletes across the EU are not to be expected. 

Dahmane could set a precedent and encourage professional players in Belgium to simply break their contract, move to another club and pay compensation equal to 12 months of salary. This would be the worst-case scenario for Belgian clubs, since a compensation equal to 12 months of salary will nearly always be inferior to a transfer fee. On the other hand, mass unilateral contract terminations by footballers in Belgium would vindicate the need for specific regulation for football clubs.

In many ways the Belgian Court of Labour has “passed the ball” back to the Belgian legislator. Should the Belgian legislator feel that professional athletes, or footballers for that matter, have to be treated differently compared to normal workers then it could always decide to adopt specific laws or Royal Decrees for professional athletes. However, Dahmane will serve as a warning that these separate laws or Royal Decrees will need proper objective justifications as to why professional athletes are to be treated differently.

[1] See for example: Zaak-Dahmane krijgt allure van zaak-Bosman

[2] Arrest A.R. 2009/AH/199 (6 may 2014) Sub II, §1

[3] Ibid, Sub III §6

[4] Ibid, §7

[5] Ibid, §6

[6] Ibid, §7

[7] Ibid, Sub II, §1

[8] Ibid, Sub III §12

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Asser International Sports Law Blog | The World Anti-Doping System at a Crossroads

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

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.

This is testimony to the innocuousness of WADA’s compliance checks. The Agency loves barking in public but hardly bites. In all fairness, it is simply not equipped to properly enforce the rules it has proudly devised and promoted. To adequately reset the system, the anti-doping community needs to acknowledge that until now WADA has been more of a PR stunt than a serious global anti-doping supervisor. The practical reality of anti-doping operations must be well understood to do so. The Agency drafts and adopts the World Anti-Doping Code and its complementary international standards but it is unable to control the concrete meaning that will be given to these provisions at a local level. In other words, the world anti-doping system as it stands is a glocal construct. It is dependent on the collaboration of local institutions (national governments, agencies, laboratories, but also sports federations) for its operation and thus takes different local meanings. Either the anti-doping community recognizes this pluralist reality and renounces the ideal of a level anti-doping playing field or the structure and operation of the system must be radically changed.

In recent weeks, key stakeholders have indicated their preferences. Both an influential group of national anti-doping agencies (often public bodies financed by national states) and the International Olympic Committee have called (here and here) for WADA to exercise more stringent compliance monitoring and to be given the proper authority to police the local anti-doping enforcers. This is the only way forward if the widely shared ideal of a level playing field is to be maintained. Yet, it also implies that the IOC (representing the entire sports community) and national governments will have to substantially increase WADA’s budget. This will most likely prove difficult at a time when governments across the globe are focusing on tightening their fiscal belts. The IOC, which derives huge economic revenues from its commercial monopoly over the Olympics (and its ideals), will probably have to put its money where its mouth is and unilaterally assume a substantial raise of WADA’s budget (from  $27,484,828 in 2015). To illustrate the scale of the expansion needed: in 2015 WADA had only 81 employees (compared with more than 11,000 athletes participating in the Rio Olympics). In these conditions, it can hardly monitor the particular workings of each national anti-doping agency and laboratory around the globe. The Agency will need to recruit in-house investigators in droves if it is to fulfil the responsibility that the IOC and NADOs want to endow it with. If WADA stays underfunded and understaffed, we will continue to witness just another example of organized irresponsibility. WADA would be tasked with an impossible mission in order to deflect the blame for failing to rein doping from other institutions that would have had the means to act but declined to do so.

To succeed in ensuring a more-or-less comparable enforcement of the World Anti-Doping Code around the globe, WADA will not only require more resources. It will also need to radically change its mind-set. The Agency must acknowledge that its anti-doping mandate is a Sisyphus-like task. It will never be fully achieved and to even approach achieving it will require the enrolment of whistle-blowers and the media. For this to happen, the former must be able to trust that they will not irremediably damage their professional/personal careers (the IOC’s treatment of Stepanova is an obvious counter-example) and the latter would need to have access to much more publically available data on anti-doping enforcement to know where to look. 

Finally, even if WADA were to morph into a trustworthy watchdog patrolling the globe to ensure a minimum level of compliance with its rules and standards, it would still need to rely on the disciplinary power of the IOC and the other Sports Governing Bodies to back-up its monitoring activities. The controversial decision of the IOC to let the Russian athletes compete in Rio, despite WADA’s recommendation otherwise, highlights the resistance it might face. Enhanced monitoring and compliance checks will have a deterrent effect only if they are followed-up by substantial sanctions.

The future of the fight against doping is on the table this weekend. Like Alice in Wonderland, the WADA is at a fork in the road, and to choose the right path it will need to decide first where it wants to go.

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