Today the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) announced that it has found that the IOC rule that banned athletes who were suspended for more than 6 months from competing in the next Olympic Games after their suspension ended was invalid and unenforceable. The full decision can be found at http://www.tas-cas.org/d2wfiles/document/5314/5048/0/Final20award202422.pdf.
The decision of CAS is a good decision on a number of different fronts. It definitively rejects the notion that an athlete can receive an additional sanction under the false pretense of an “eligibility rule.” It settles once and for all an issue that has been raised in virtually every doping case in which I have been involved since the rule was first enacted in July 2008. It provides certainty to all athletes. It reinforces the World Anti-Doping Agency as the leader of the anti-doping movement in the Olympic movement. It reinforces CAS as the “Supreme Court of Sport,” and further solidifies the independence of CAS.
It was a pleasure for me to present this case to CAS on behalf of the USOC with my Swiss colleague Antonio Rigozzi, and with the USOC’s General Counsel Rana Dershowitz, but there are many who deserve credit. The USOC and IOC certainly should be credited with recognizing that this issue needed to be resolved now, and agreeing to submit this case to CAS a full year before the 2012 Olympic Games. The AAA arbitration panels in the cases of LaShawn Merritt and Jessica Hardy should be credited with addressing this Rule when they could have easily sidestepped it. USADA and the many other national anti-doping organizations that submitted briefs in support of the USOC’s position should be credited for standing up and taking a firm and unwavering position that this rule was actually hindering their ability to do their jobs. Significantly, Jessica Hardy and LaShawn Merritt should be credited for handling themselves with dignity, and for reminding us that sport is about the incredible athletes who inspire us.