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UNI World Athletes

PLAYERS WILL CONTINUE CLAUDIA PECHSTEIN’S HEROIC FIGHT TO REFORM SPORT’S JUSTICE SYSTEM

09 Jun 2016 - by FICA in MEMBER & AFFILIATIONS NEWS

UNI World Athletes, the world players’ association across professional sport, today applauded German speed skater Claudia Pechstein for her immense courage and sacrifice in challenging sport’s justice system, and vowed to continue to press for reform.

Ms. Pechstein, whose claim for damages against the International Skating Union (ISU) was today dismissed by the Bundesgerichtshof, Germany’s federal court, had questioned whether the due process rights of athletes are upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Backed by FIFPro, the world footballers’ association, she argued that the CAS inherently favours the international sporting bodies that dominate its governing body, the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS).

Brendan Schwab, the Head of UNI World Athletes, said that, “Ms. Pechstein’s seven-year legal battle after being banned for two years for allegedly doping, which she denies, has the full support of the world’s player associations. She is deeply admired for her courage and sacrifice.

“UNI World Athletes is committed to achieving a global arbitration system that upholds the human rights of the players, and an anti-doping system that is effective and proportionate. Sport presently has neither.
“As Professor John G. Ruggie of Harvard University found in his recent report to FIFA, current sports’ regulations have the practical effect of denying players access to courts of justice in favour of an arbitration system that lacks expertise in human rights. He recommended that this be reviewed with the involvement of player representatives to ensure that the procedural and substantive protections of a player’s fundamental rights are in place.”

In dismissing Ms. Pechstein’s suit, which was based on German competition law, Germany’s federal court held that:

  • the ISU is dominant in the organising of international speed skating competitions
  • the fact that the ICAS is a body that involves mainly representatives of international sporting federations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not constitute a structural imbalance in the composition of the CAS tribunal
  • athletes and associations do not confront each other guided by conflicting interests, as the global fight against doping is in the interests of both sporting organisations and athletes
  • the CAS is a “real” arbitral tribunal
  • even though Ms. Pechstein was required to agree to give exclusive jurisdiction to the CAS as a condition of her participation in competition, she signed the arbitration agreement voluntarily.

Schwab said, “The reasoning of the court does not reflect the practical experience of athletes, the widely acknowledged concerns over the ineffectiveness of current anti-doping regulation and the inexperience of the CAS regarding human rights.

“The court’s decision exacerbates the crisis of confidence with sport’s justice system that prevails among player associations, and certainly does not bring this to an end. Reforms must urgently be negotiated with player representatives as recommended by Professor Ruggie. The CAS must have the confidence of those most affected by its decisions – the players.”

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