The role of the CAS
by Nicole Holas
When Canadian Beckie Scott headed for Salt Lake City and the 2002 Winter Olympics, she probably had no idea she would have to travel to Switzerland to claim a gold medal. Miss Scott competed in the women’s 5-kilometre pursuit cross-country skiing competition on February 15, 2002. She finished third behind two Russian skiers. Miss Scott was eventually awarded the gold medal in that competition, due to two failed urine tests by the Russian skiers, and a visit to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The CAS is an independent institution based in Lausanne, Switzerland, which facilitates the settlement of sport-related disputes through arbitration or mediation. The administration and financing of the CAS is facilitated by the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS).
The idea for the CAS was born out of the need for an independent body to resolve disputes directly or indirectly related to sport. During the 1980s, the number of international sports-related disputes began to rise, but the lack of a tribunal or court with the ability to pass binding decisions left many of these disputes unresolved. Former International Olympic Committee President H.E. Juan Antonio Samaranch had the idea to create a sports-specific jurisdiction to provide binding decisions to sports federations and, in 1984, the CAS was created.
A list of arbitrators and mediators is maintained by the CAS and, to date, the list consists of 279 arbitrators and 67 mediators from more than 80 countries. One local lawyer, Mr. Henri C. Alvarez, a partner with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Vancouver, is currently an arbitrator with the CAS.
The CAS is composed of an Ordinary Arbitration Division and an Appeals Arbitration Division, which hears disputes on an array of subjects – from a ban imposed on a tennis player by the International Tennis Federation due to an allegation of cocaine use to the transfer of a player between top European soccer clubs. The CAS also provides opinions on legal questions related to sport. CAS decisions have the same enforceability as decisions of ordinary courts. The parties to an arbitration can agree on the national law applicable to the dispute. If no agreement can be reached, Swiss law applies. For the appeals procedure, the arbitrators decide on the applicable law.
The CAS also establishes non-permanent or ad hoc arbitration tribunals for major international sporting competitions. At their second annual meeting in Lausanne on September 29, 2009, the ICAS announced the creation of the arbitration division for the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. And for all you soccer fans out there, the ICAS is also considering an ad hoc procedure for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The CAS will have a presence in Vancouver at least ten days prior to the start of the Olympics. The rules for the ad hoc division allow for the establishment of a list of arbitrators, a President, and a Court Office. The ICAS will appoint a special list of arbitrators for the ad hoc tribunal for the Winter Games. As of press time, the list of arbitrators was not published by the ICAS.
The CAS rules governing the ad hoc division are thorough and include the formation of a panel of three arbitrators to hear a dispute, the information required in a written application to the Court Office and the procedure before the panel. The rules instruct the panel to give a ruling within 24 hours of the receipt of an application. Panel hearings are not open to the public.
Hopefully none of the 615 medals awarded during the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver will require a decision of the CAS, or a trip to Switzerland.
This article was published in the February 2010 issue of BarTalk. © 2010 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.