Sports Law and the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Date28 September 2018
Published date28 September 2018
AuthorHelen Jefferson Lenskyj University of Toronto, Canada
The IOC established the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
in 1983 because of the perceived need within Olympic and
international sport circles for a speedy, sport-specic and con-
dential dispute resolution process. The IOC, international
federations (IFs), national Olympic committees (NOCs) and
national sports organizations (NSOs) that is, the most
important Olympic industry players were concerned about
the intrusion of law into sportand sought immunity from
domestic jurisdictions(Anderson, 2000, p. 123). Mainstream
courts, proponents argued, were costly and time-consuming,
and judges lacked specialized knowledge of sport-related mat-
ters. More ominously, according to veteran CAS arbitrator
Richard McLaren, politics and economic incentives cast a
darkening shadow across the playing eld(McLaren, 2001c,
p. 379). In the oft-quoted words of another longstanding CAS
arbitrator, Michael Beloff, Render unto sports the things that
are sports and to courts the things that are legal(Beloff,
2012, p. 80) an overly simplistic formula and, arguably, a
false dichotomy.
The notion that politics and sport dont mix,or shouldnt
mix, is a hoary chestnut that has been convincingly debunked
by generations of progressive sport scholars dating back to
the 1970s (see, for example, Bairner & Molnar, 2010;
Brohm, 1978; Espy, 1979; Lenskyj & Wagg, 2012). On a
global scale, the IOCs exercise of political power is exempli-
ed through its 30-year relationship with the UN, and, as one
critic noted, the IOC has moved from merely partnering with
UN organizations to becoming a political insider at the UN
(van Luikj, 2017). One in seven NOCs around the globe has
direct ties with that countrys government (Play the Game,
2017). Sports and politics are certainly not strangers, as the
following chapters will demonstrate.
In a 2012 commentary, Beloff observed that there were
precedents to demonstrate the sensitivity of ordinary law to
the peculiarities of sport,giving as one example the UKs Sex
Discrimination Act 1975, S.44, which exempted competitive
sport from its protections (Beloff, 2012, p. 73). However, like
S.19.2 of the 1981 Ontario Human Rights Code, discussed
above, this so-called sensitivityreected binary thinking
about gender and the uncritical embrace of sport
exceptionalism that is, the belief that sport is unique and
requires its own special laws and rules, and that individuals
outside of sport simply dont get it.In a 2017 example, IOC
president Thomas Bach accused critics of ignorance and self-
ishness. They were aggressive,he claimed, and unwilling to
engage in dialogue because they saw the IOC as part of the
establishment(Bach, quoted in Butler, 2017). In fact, the
IOCs close relationship with national governments and mul-
tinational corporate sponsors provides ample evidence of its
secure position within the establishment.
14 Gender, AthletesRights, and CAS

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