ALM Properties, Inc.
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Judging the Olympics at the Court of Arbitration for Sport
Attorney Maidie Oliveau has a big job to do at the London Olympic Gamesand so far, its involved a French modern pentathlon competitor, an Irish boxer, and the Spanish Canoeing Federation. Theyve all appealed cases to the ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. For the ad hoc divisions 12 arbitratorsof whom Oliveau is the only U.S. representative and the sole womantheir mandate is to resolve legal disputes that arise from 10 days before the Opening Ceremonies through the end of the 2012 Games. The three-person panels hear cases involving qualification for the Games, doping issues, and disputes that come up in the field of play.
Maidie Oliveau: The parties, with the filing of their appeal, will file a brief statement of the facts and the issues. There is normally an adverse partythat would be primarily the entity which made the decision thats being appealed. We also will add any people or organizations who are considered interested parties. That might include other athletes. It could be the International Olympic Committee. It could be the London Organizing Committee
MO: Under the CAS rules for the Olympic Games, we apply the rules of the applicable international federationsuch as the International Canoe Federation, for example. Then we may need to apply the rules of the IOC, which is the Olympic Charter. The seat of the CAS is Lausanne, Switzerlandso we apply Swiss law if those other two sources of law are not elucidating enough.
MO: Well, there may be an element of bad faith. There may be some kind of coercion. There may be a breach of contract. So you never know. We always look to Swiss law to make sure that, if theres a lacuna in the rules, we are complying with the ultimately applicable national law. The whole purpose of this type of procedure is to make sure there are consistent rulings for all the athletes.
MO: In all three cases there was an athlete who sought an interpretationinvolving whats called the qualification systemthat was different than what the federation had made. And in all three cases, we were unfortunately unable to find in favor of the athlete. We read the rules to have been correctly interpreted by the federation.
MO: During the course of the Games, it is possible that we might get what wed call a field of play decision. That would be something where an athlete appealed a decision made during the competition. We will not stand in the stead of the referee or umpire. But if theres some sort of legal malfeasance, we will review it. So if theres bribery, or some sort of coercion, or if there was no rule in the first place, we will review the situation and make sure that everyone got treated fairly.
MO: I think its actually highly positive and very critical. Ill quote the outside counsel of the International Olympic Committee, after the games in Athens. He said that the presence of the judges brings wisdom to the federations. And what he meant by that is that the mere existence of a right of appeal to the ad hoc division focuses the mind of the various rulemakers, such that they try to consider very, very carefully what theyre doing. That allows the athletes who are developing their strategies on which competitions they will enter, and how they will qualify, to actually have clear road maps to doing that.
MO: Yes, if Im not working. I have not had a whole lot of opportunity to go, but I do try to grab the time when I canI went to the equestrian show jumping, and the beach volleyball.
See also: "Let the (Social) Olympic Games Begin!", CorpCounsel, July 2012.