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For most participants in the Winter Olympics this week, the road to Salt Lake City, Utah, has been paved by skill, determination and, above all, practice. This applies equally to David W. Rivkin, though in his case, it is the practice of law, not slalom racing or triple axels, that has brought him to the 2002 Winter Games. Rivkin, a litigation partner with New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton, will be serving as one of two Americans on the special Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The nine members of the arbitration panel, who hail from eight different countries, will decide all legal disputes that arise during the course of the games. Though his efforts will garner no medals, Rivkin could not be more delighted at this shot at Olympic glory. “I love the whole Olympic experience,” he said. “It’ll be great to experience it in a new way.” The nine members of the Salt Lake City CAS were chosen from a pool of 184 arbitrators from 55 nations. All members are either lawyers, judges or professors specializing in sports law or international arbitration. Rivkin has handled arbitrations around the world before virtually every major arbitration institution, and serves on the boards of many of them. “He’s easily one of the leading figures in the field,” said John M. Townsend, a fellow arbitration specialist and litigation partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Hughes Hubbard & Reed. “Anyone who’s anybody in the field knows who he is and thinks highly of him,” continued Townsend, who has worked with Rivkin many times. About two-thirds of disputes facing the CAS involve drug use allegations and eligibility questions. Perhaps the best-known legal dispute that has gone before the CAS was the controversial case of Andrea Raducan, the Romanian gymnast stripped of her gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. Raducan had tested positive for pseudoephredrine, a banned drug, contained in cold medication the gymnast had taken. This is only the fourth time the CAS will be convening at the Olympics. Before the 1996 Atlanta Games, disputes were typically referred to the International Olympic Committee or the governing bodies of the individual sports, where perceptions of partiality occasionally clouded deliberations. “The CAS was set up precisely because of concerns that the IOC could be influenced by politics,” said Rivkin. To prevent any appearance of impropriety, arbitrators, who will hear disputes in three-member panels, will not be allowed to rule on any dispute involving athletes of their own nationality. So neither Rivkin nor the other American arbitrator, Los Angeles sports attorney Maidie Oliveau, will hear any matter involving U.S. athletes or teams. The CAS is also required to render decisions within 24 hours, in order to minimize disruption to the games. Parties will make written submissions and will be allowed to present witnesses or evidence in an oral hearing. The past three Olympics have created some body of precedent on which the Salt Lake City arbitrators can rely, Rivkin noted. Aspects of American procedural law will apply, but the arbitrators will generally be interpreting international law of custom and treaty. Since the CAS technically sits in Lausanne, Switzerland, challenges to the CAS’s rulings must be made in Swiss courts. FOR LOVE OF THE GAMES Though his expertise is in international arbitration, Rivkin does not lack enthusiasm for sports. Back in New York, he holds season tickets to the Knicks and catches as many Mets games as possible. He and his family went to the Atlanta Games, albeit as spectators. “It’s a rare opportunity when your personal and professional interests coincide like this,” he said. The other nations sending arbitrators to Salt Lake City are Italy, Australia, Canada, the U.K., Germany, Finland and Switzerland. Matthieu Reeb, secretary general of the CAS, acknowledged that the composition of the panel was intended to reflect nations considered winter sports powerhouses. A judge from India, R.S. Pathak, will preside over the CAS, though he will not be serving as an arbitrator. The arbitrators’ expenses are covered but they are not otherwise compensated for participating in the CAS. However, since arbitrators will not serve on panels every day, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the games. They will have full IOC credentials, granting them access to all events. This may prove quite a threat to the efficient operation of the CAS, Reeb acknowledged. “We ask the arbitrators not to be at the stadium all the time,” he said.

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