Possible damage proceedings by Russian athletes banned from Rio 2016
As published by World Sports Law Report on August 3, 2016.
With the Rio Olympic Games 2016 set to begin on 6 August 2016, 11 procedures have already been filed between 26 July 2016 and 1 August 2016 to the Court ofArbitration for Sport (‘CAS’), many of which seek to overturn bans against participation in the Olympic Games by Russian athletes. These particular procedures follow decisions by each of the 28 sports federations, who were asked by the International Olympic Committee to determine as to whether athletes from Russia could compete in their respective events. The CAS opened two temporary divisions in Rio on 26 July 2016: an Anti Doping Division and an ad hoc Division, to which doping cases can be appealed. These temporary divisions will close on 21 August 2016.
Following publication of the McLaren Report on 18 July 2016, which found damning evidence of mass state sponsored doping in Russia, the IOC’s decision not to issue an outright ban on Russia’s participation in the Games has proved hugely controversial. The potential for successful damage claims to be brought against the individual sporting federations is a real possibility. As of yet, it is not known whether any damage claims have been filed to the CAS.
Paul Greene, Founder of Global Sports Advocates LLC said that “the general legal theory of a Russian athlete bringing a suit for damages against an individual sporting federation for banning them from the games would be that the federation unfairly robbed them of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in violation of the World Anti-Doping Code and international law, since the athlete was banned without proof that they actually doped.”
Regarding the likely outcomes and other legal issues at play, “the success or failure of these suits could be dependent on what country the lawsuits are filed in and whether the athlete filing the suit is sympathetic and has a compelling story to tell,” notes Greene. “A more important question for the athletes is the potential enforceability of the lawsuit, even if they get a judgment against an international federation. It may prove challenging to actually collect on a judgment in one of these suits.”
As of 1 August 2016, the ad hoc Division of the CAS has already registered the same number of applications as for the total period of the 2012 London Olympic Games. More claims are expected as the remaining sports federations continue to give their decisions on Russian competitors participating in Rio 2016.