Friday, February 10, 2006

Arbitrating Disputes at the Winter Olympics

With the Winter Olympic Games opening today in Torino, I thought you might be interested in knowing how athletic disputes arising during the Olympics will be resolved. Every Olympic Games has their share of legal disputes, and this year will be no exception.

Essentially disputes are resolved by an ad hoc arbitral body that is on call to immediately adjudicate any legal dispute. All or almost all national Olympic federations (and their athletes) agree in advance to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) arbitration. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. I actually teach a study tour each May that takes our students to London and Geneva (I know, tough life) and it includes presentations in Lausanne from the Secretary General and/or legal staff at CAS.
Of course, only the top of the arbitration profession gets this amazing gig. I happen to know several of the arbitrators who have done it in past years and their stories are quite amazing. They are on call day and night to resolve any dispute, but otherwise they are guests of honor at the Olympics.

The arbitration rules governing Olympic disputes are short, only 10 pages, and are available here under the Ad Hoc Rules tab. Any scholars interested in the subject can find a CAS bibliography of sports law here. Georgetown Law Library also has a nice Olympic and International Sports Law webpage here with good links. There also is a nice summary of the recent history of arbitrating Olympic disputes from the CAS webpage.

Many of the Olympic cases have involved doping, which is unlikely to be of particular interest to our readers. But if there are any interesting disputes arising from the Olympics I will try to post about them.

UPDATE: On Sunday Reuters published a nice story of the Court of Arbitration for Sport here that includes quotes from with CAS Secretary General Mattieu Reeb.

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