Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



The international athletic community’s preference for arbitration over traditional domestic courts to settle disputes between individual athletes and their respective sports governing bodies has led to the development of an authority specializing in international sports dispute resolution—the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Originally created in 1984 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to hear Olympic disputes, CAS has developed into the exclusive arbitral body for international sports disputes, and clauses granting CAS exclusive authority are found in essentially all contracts between individual athletes and their respective athletic federation. Although, CAS functions as the “Supreme Court” of Sports and is credited for developing a set of principles and rules in international sports law, CAS has been criticized for its close ties to the IOC. Individual athletes have increasingly challenged CAS’ independence and impartiality. In a case captivating the international athletic community, world-class German speed skater Claudia Pechstein challenged her suspension in her domestic courts, which for the first time reached her nation’s highest court. If domestic courts question CAS’ authority, declaring the forum is not independent and impartial, it would encourage other athletes to follow suit and ultimately lead to the destruction of international sports law. This Note will examine whether CAS is the most objective forum to settle international sports disputes. In order for CAS to function as international sport’s “Supreme Court” and continue the essential development of international sports law, institutional reforms must be implemented. This Note begins by discussing international arbitration and highlighting how CAS evolved into the primary forum for settling international sports disputes. The Note will then examine Claudia Pechstein’s case in her national courts and the European Court of Human Rights, which threaten to destroy CAS’ supreme authority and expose the forum’s deficiencies of impartiality and independence. The Note will then compare CAS arbitration to dispute resolution processes utilized by professional sports leagues in Europe and the United States, concluding that CAS should reform its arbitrator selection methods to be modeled after the United Kingdom’s “Sport Resolutions.” Arbitration selection clauses should be redesigned to implement tripanel arbitrations to facilitate more balanced and independent arbitral decisions. Further, this Note will propose that CAS give precedential value in published award decisions to compel consistent and fair rulings.