International sports legislation can be quite complicated.  Relevant institutions include national sports organizations or governing bodies, international sports federations (IFs), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and constituent National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), national arbitral tribunals, national courts, and international/regional (largely European) authority.  

These organizations follow different regulations. wherein even the rules per institution differ according to the sport.   The real difficulty is to build a more cohesive procedure that is capable of unifying the various authorities. It would be a good start to achieving harmonization or, at least, an effort at reconciling the various sanctioning organizations’ norms and processes. This is not intended to demand, nor should it be expected, that everyone arrives at similar standards and norms of operation overnight. Conceptually, it’s recognizing the value of combining the management of these problems, such as eligibility for participation, doping, and the movement of athletes.


The Olympic Movement and its selected formal conflict resolution body, the CAS, offer a fundamental legal framework that is tailored to meet the demands of the Olympic games but may also be applied to other situations. Dispute settlement among the many stakeholders takes place on a wide spectrum. When several entities are given concurrent power to make decisions about who gets to do what to whom, when, and with what consequence, it increases the likelihood that certain rules will be enforced. However, it may lead to ambiguity and occasionally be in contradiction with decisions that are already in place.

The apex of the global dispute resolution system for sports issues is the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Despite the enormous significance of its judgments for athletes’ life, CAS maintains considerable autonomy from governments. Only in Lausanne can the procedures for setting aside CAS arbitral awards be initiated, owing to the seat of CAS tribunals being located there. The number of cases in which judges are being forced to put aside because of procedures being set aside has grown to the point where almost half of the Supreme Court’s caseload is made up of cases related to international arbitration.

It seems that a normative basis that may serve as a foundation for a more stable process is, on a very fundamental level, via governance bodies at the national level The job of these regulatory bodies is to try to prevent and settle conflicts and impose penalties from rule violations on the playing field to eligibility problems. Disputes are usually handled by using internal administrative review, independent arbitration, or a mix of these two approaches.


National legislation may define the connection between the national governing bodies and the international authority (e.g., the IOC) in terms of who is considered to be an IF or another international authority. This may be seen wherein the United States  Amateur Sports Act states that there should be a single governing organization in the United States that designates individuals and teams to represent the United States in international sporting competition and grants certifications on the amateur nature of the people and teams they choose.

It would be remiss to believe that national governing bodies do not take into context the functioning of international federations.  Decisions of the constituent national organizations concerning contests and the status of individual athletes may be reviewed by IFs. It is generally agreed that the Olympic Charter rules take precedence, although when it comes to international sports law, it is less apparent if IOC rulings take precedence. National governments will usually arrive at decisions that transcend national legislation via arbitration.

These disputes tend to be handled by the IOC itself or by the Council of Arbitration of Sports. Decisions that have occurred as a result of the IFs benefit them. One example is the Advisory Opinion on Doping by Athletes issued by the Council, which directed NOCs to submit their doping control decisions to the authority of the IFs.

Identifying the roles that national Olympic committees thus have is imperative. The NOCs are permitted to intervene in disputes related to athlete participation in sanctioned competition. At times, the interpretation of international regulations dictates that national leagues have control over the sanctioned international competition, as well as who is and is not eligible to participate. However, the regulations that govern NOC decisions such as the length of Olympic preparation, selection, and competition have at times curtailed its effectiveness.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) functions against  NOCs, as the final arbiter of disputes within the Olympic Movement.  On its own initiative or with input from athletes or the IF,  any situation may request a review from the IOC if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of a particular decision. NOCs have the ‘exclusive’ authority to choose which athletes will represent their country or select those athletes who are eligible to represent them in sanctioned competition under the Olympic Charter. However, the IFA has the ‘delegated’ authority to establish eligibility criteria and set up rules that govern the practice of their respective sports. 

The International Council of Arbitration for Sport is an arbitration court of the international Olympic movement. Since the seat of CAS arbitrations is always Lausanne, Switzerland, the court of competent jurisdiction to hear actions to set aside CAS awards is the Swiss Supreme Court. This entity is a cluster of IF centering around obligatory arbitration provisions in contracts between athletes and national governing organizations as part of an umbrella body called the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS). In order to be able to compete in IF-sanctioned competitions,  athletes sign into these contracts. 

Participation in the Olympic Games is included in the list of similar conditions.  This kind of arbitration provision establishes a foundation for enforcing judgments even if the future livelihood of the athlete is at stake. Amateur and professional athletes are no longer as different as they were in the past, and open competition is widespread.

An IF’s constitution, authority over an individual athlete’s person or property, and adherence to the norms of good faith and ordinary contract law are all issues that the CAS is authorized to examine in the event that any of those three are in question.   It is imperative to remember that a athletes’ interests are more important than anybody else’s. The interest of the athlete takes priority over that of the federation on this subject, for example, when it comes to strict liability for doping. 


The CAS arbitrates issues between individual athletes and national governing organizations, as well as challenges filed by international federations.  It offers summaries for parties that can’t agree, and also gives advisory views. In the CAS’s organization, different sections handle the task of conventional arbitration and appeals, regional offices, and ad hoc divisions dedicated to dispute resolution at locations where international sporting events are being held, such as the Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games. CAS arbitral processes have been touted as offering ‘confidentiality, specialization of the arbitrators, flexibility and simplicity of the procedure, speed, reduced costs, and international effectiveness of the arbitration award.   By 2001, the CAS had rendered over fifty awards and issued more than ten advisory opinions, and decided over 250 cases.

There has been a significant surge in the CAS’s expansion due to the federations’ decision to be subject to the CAS’s obligatory jurisdiction.   As a result, there are many accords in which IFs have agreed. On the other hand, IF-affiliated organizations have individuals subject to CAS jurisdiction if they are part of an IF membership organization at the national level. ICAS was granted control over the CAS in 1993. 

The independence and prestige of the CAS were enhanced when the IOC no longer had direct control over the tribunal. To ensure the IOC is free of any conflicts of interest, the new structure ts of law takes care of everything. Termination provisions in license contracts have expanded widely, and new methods of informal dispute settlement, such as within national governments and the IFs, have not had an adverse effect on litigation.  Courts are sometimes the best alternative to the preferred arbitration and sometimes become the only alternative often the only option. Arbitration agreements may not govern certain claims, and even when they do, national law may guarantee that such claims will go through a judicial review process. Additionally, claims may arise out of complex social, human, or natural rights, such as public order. Issues that are addressed include the rights of athletes to earn a living, to participate in administrative procedures, and to be free of prejudice in such proceedings.  It is worth mentioning that the longstanding issue of doping necessitates onerous penalties that are seen by some as unfair. The use of litigation is an essential strategy.

As a result of more professional and semi-professional athletes relying on confidential and binding financial transactions to their advantage, there is a rise in the number of legal claims that reach beyond the competence of administration processes and informal tribunals. As CAS precedent has shown, a breach of the right to be heard by a national governing body or IF authorizes the tribunal to consider a matter de novo.


The Legal Affairs Commission (previously the Juridical Commission) advises the IOC Session, the IOC Executive Board, and the IOC President on legal matters, acting as a consultation body as well as an operational body. The Legal Affairs Commission is responsible to [A.] offer legal advice to the IOC President, the IOC Executive Board, and the IOC Session on matters related to the exercise of their respective competencies, upon their request, [B.] submit comments on proposed changes to the Olympic Charter; [C.]  consider the IOC’s actions or defenses; [D.] conduct legal research on topics that may impact the IOC’s interests; [E.] carry out any additional legal responsibilities delegated to it by the IOC President, the IOC Executive Board, or the IOC Session; and [F.] discuss current legal problems impacting the many organizations that comprise the Olympic Movement, including the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations, and the National Olympic Committees, and, if necessary, consult with ASOIF, ASOIWF, and ANOC. The Legal Affairs Department provides assistance to the Legal Affairs Commission.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC; French: Comité International Olympique, CIO) is a Swiss non-governmental sports organization headquartered in Lausanne. It is governed by the Swiss Civil Code (articles 60–79). It was founded in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin and Demetrios Vikelas and is responsible for the current Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the governing body of the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the global ‘Olympic Movement,’ the IOC’s name for all organizations and people participating in the Olympic Games. By 2020, the IOC will have recognized 206 NOCs. The IOC is now led by Germany’s Thomas Bach, who replaced Belgium’s Jacques Rogge in September 2013.


The scope of the Olympic Charter is defined by pointing to the three primary objectives that the Olympic Charter seeks to accomplish: [A.] to be the core constitutional instrument that regulates and recounts Olympism’s Fundamental Principles and Core Values; [B.] to furnish the IOC Statutes; [C.]The definition of the Olympic Movement’s primary reciprocal rights and obligations between the three major constituents, namely the IOC, IF, and the NOC, as well as the Olympic Games Organising Committees (OCOG).

By reading and interpreting these three objectives, similarities are observed between the OC and other known regulatory tools. Charter this is conceptually similar to a Constitution, as it is the fundamental document of the Olympic Movement, whose raison d’être is to serve as a governing framework for the other rules (lex superior, lex maxima, or ‘fundamental rule’), each of which, when complex and complete, assumes transcendent authority over the universe. Additionally, there are other parallels to a Constitution: [A.]  the Olympic Charter is fundamental or constitutive in nature; [B.] it establishes a set of standards and foundational principles that underpin a distinctive institution, in this case,  the organization of sport worldwide; and [A. ] it aims to provide a stable configuration to the governing regime by making amendments to the OC an exceptional occurrence requiring a two-thirds majority vote.


The Olympic Charter, as the instrument governing the IOC’s internal organization, comprises or includes the IOC’s Statutes. Finally, the OC resembles a contract in that it defines the rights and responsibilities of the Olympic Movement’s principal components. In terms of substance, the OC is a composite legal document in which broad concepts coexist with more technical regulations, which contain coercive measures as well as basic norms of conduct. Additionally, the OC mixes public law principles – such as those governing the exclusive capacity to represent a nation – with private law principles – it establishes the Olympic Games’ notion of ‘ownership.’

The OC is vested with executive, legislative, and judicial authority. In terms of executive authority, the process for selecting a city to host the Games is notable. In terms of legislative authority, it is necessary to identify the authority to modify the OC’s text, as specified in Rule 18(3), under the title Session. Finally, the OC embodies judicial authority, as demonstrated by Rule 59, under the heading Measures and Sanctions, which empowers IOC bodies – the Session and the Executive Board – and the Disciplinary Commission, which the Executive Board may delegate authority to, to punish violations of the OC, the World Anti-Doping Code, or any other regulation, as applicable. Indeed, despite the fact that the OC is the basic declaration of the Olympic Movement (OM) and is articulated in principles aimed at achieving universal legal value, it is a document authorized by the IOC, which is a corporate entity subject to Swiss private law.


While the IOC may clearly and legitimately adopt its own rules, this originating right does not derive from any higher-order rule conferring such legitimacy, and thus it is logical to question the manner and legal basis upon which the IOC was able to establish the OC and impose its terms on all those who voluntarily join the OM and thus come under its authority.

The International Olympic Committee and International Federations collaborated to establish rules for the Tokyo Olympics’ various activities. The IOC and the IFs collaborated to establish the Games’ Sport-Specific Regulations (SSR) in order to assess the effect of a proven positive COVID-19 case and its handling in competitive formats and structures. The IOC created the SSR as a contingency mechanism that will be activated in the event of a verified COVID instance in any sport, ensuring the smooth conduct of games.

The Tokyo Olympics took place from July 23RD  to August 8TH, despite the spreading COVID-19 epidemic. The Games were rebranded as a ‘television-only event’ when the Japanese government prohibited fans from entering venues after the declaration of a state of emergency to halt the spread of the deadly illness.


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2. ‘On the Olympic Charter of the International Olympic Committee’, Topical problems of the International Olympic Movement, Sofia, Sofia Press, 1982, p. 75. 

3. Chapelet, Jean-Loup. The International Olympic Committee and the Olympic system: The governance of world sport. Routledge, 2008

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5. 2012 J. Disp. Resol. 63 (2012)
An Introduction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) & the Role of National Courts in International Sports Dispute

6. Reilly, Louise. ‘An Introduction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) & the role of national courts in international sports disputes.’ J. Disp. Resol. (2012): 63.

7. See, Decision 4P.217/1992 of 15 March 1993 (Gundel v FEI), ATF 119 II 271, translated in CAS Digest I,p. 545 

8. Robinson, Leigh, and Brian Minikin. ‘Understanding the competitive advantage of National Olympic Committees.’ Managing leisure 17.2-3 (2012): 139-154.

9. CHN, Hai REN. ‘National Olympic Academies and their cooperation with their National Olympic Committees and Educational Institutions.’ ON THE 8TH INTERNATIONAL SESSION FOR DIRECTORS OF NATIONAL OLYMPIC ACADEMIES (2006).

10. On  26  November  2004  an  Italian criminal court  (the  ‘Tribunale di  Torino’)  issued a  judgment sentencing the team’s doctor of an Italian professional football club to a term of imprisonment  (whose execution was however suspended),  for the crime of fraud in sports competition (the ‘Judgment’). 4.Police investigation,  in fact,  found that the team’s doctor controlled,  at the club’s premises,  a  large number of pharmaceutical products,  including products containing substances prohibited under anti-doping regulations,  and/or subject to restrictions for the purchase and use.   

 As a result, the Tribunale di Torino, relying in particular on the evidence  given  by  Court-appointed  experts,  came  to  the  conclusion  that  in  the  period  1994-1998  a  large  quantity  of  pharmaceutical  substances  and  medical  treatments,  both  included and not included in the list of prohibited substances, had been administered to club’s  players  not  therapeutically  but  for  the  specific  purpose  of  enhancing  their  sport  performances

11. SAMARANCH, JUAN ANTONIO. ‘The Olympic movement.’ Journal of International Communication 2.1 (1995): 3-5

12. Meier, Henk Erik. ‘Political autonomy and control of national Olympic committees.’ Routledge Handbook of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Routledge, 2020. 265-274

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15. Chappelet, Jean-Loup, Josephine Clausen, and Emmanuel Bayle. ‘Governance of international sports federations.’ Routledge Handbook of Sports Governance. Routledge, 2019. 197-212.

16. Straubel, Michael. ‘Enhancing the performance of the doping court: how the court of arbitration for sport can do its job better.’ Loy. U. Chi. LJ 36 (2004): 1203

17. Casini, Lorenzo. ‘The making of a lex Sportiva by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.’ German Law Journal 12.5 (2011): 1317-1340

18. Ibid.

19. Kane, Darren. ‘Twenty years on an evaluation of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.’ Melb. J. Int’l L. 4 (2003): 611

20. McLaren, Richard H. ‘Introducing the Court of Arbitration for Sport: The ad hoc Division at the Olympic Games.’ Marq. Sports L. Rev. 12 (2001): 515.

21. Gilson, Eric T. ‘Exploring the court of arbitration for sport.’ Law Libr. J. 98 (2006): 503


23. Macintosh, Donald, and Michael Hawes. ‘The IOC and the World of Interdependence.’ Olympia: The International Journal of Olympic Studies 1 (1992): 29-45.

24. Roger Bartlett, Chris Gratton, Christer G. Rolf Encyclopedia of International Sports Studies. Routledge, 2012, p. 678

25. Mestre, Alexandre. ‘The legal basis of the Olympic Charter.’ INTERNATIONAL SPORTS LAW JOURNAL 1 (2008): 100

26. Bye-law to Rule 33(3) of the OC, – Election of the host city – Execution of Host City Contract

27. Duval, Antoine. ‘The Olympic Charter: A Transnational Constitution Without a State?.’ Journal of Law and Society 45 (2018): S245-S269

28. Gallego, Viviana, et al. ‘The COVID-19 outbreak and implications for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.’ Travel medicine and infectious disease 34 (2020): 101604

29. Coleman, Madeline. ‘Tokyo 2020: Covid-19 Protocols for Olympic Athletes.’ Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated, 23 July 2021,

30. Hoang, Van Thuan, Jaffar A. Al-Tawfiq, and Philippe Gautret. ‘The Tokyo Olympic Games and the risk of COVID-19.’ Current tropical medicine reports 7.4 (2020): 126-132.


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