Russian Olympic Committee to participate as third party in CAS hearings on WADA-RUSADA dispute

On January 16, 2020, the Russian Olympic Committee sent an official notification to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne on its intention to take part in court hearings between WADA and RUSADA regarding the decision by WADA’s Executive Committee issued on December 9, 2019 to revoke the compliance status of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and ban Russia from competing in all major international sports events.

Earlier, WADA brought the case before CAS as the Russian Anti-Doping Agency sent an official notification outlining its disagreement with the ruling and the ensuing consequences.

WADA intends for CAS to uphold its decision to revoke RUSADA’s compliance status and bring into effect all the recommended consequences, i.e. to strip Russia of the right to participate in major international sports tournaments, including the Olympics, Paralympics and world championships, for a period of four years. In line with the World Anti-Doping Code, such disputes are to be resolved in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland. WADA is the plaintiff in this case and the agency is being represented by the Swiss law firm Kellerhals Carrard.

RUSADA will appear in court as the defendant. According to the decision by RUSADA’s highest collegial bodies (the Supervisory Board and the General Meeting), the Swiss law firm Schellenberg Wittmer will argue the case on behalf of RUSADA.

Within 10 days after WADA submitting its case before CAS (January 9), other interested legal entities and individuals can also join the proceedings as third parties. As January 19 falls on a Sunday, the deadline has been extended to January 20, 2020.

An interested third party means an organization whose interests may be affected by the possible consequences of revoking RUSADA’s compliance status, and also individuals (athletes) who believe that the consequences of approving WADA’s sanctions could adversely affect their legitimate interests.

As a result, on December 24, 2019, the Executive Board of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) decided to act as a third party in the process. During the same meeting, it was determined that the interests of the ROC would be represented by the lawyer Claude Ramoni from the Swiss law firm Libra Law, which is currently already working on the ROC’s official position.

The Russian Olympic Committee has had no claims or accusations directed at it by WADA, the IOC or other agencies. The ROC strives to make a significant contribution to the fight for clean world sports and the organization was not in any way connected with the database transfer from Moscow’s laboratory, as a result, the ROC will ask CAS to establish and rule on the illegality of applying the proposed sanctions on Russia’s National Olympic Committee, and will ask to allow it to fully comply with and exercise the rights set forth in the Olympic Charter – the Olympic movement’s main document.

According to the Olympic Charter:

  • The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries. They bring together the athletes selected by their respective NOCs.
  • NOCs have the exclusive authority to represent their country’s athletes at the Olympic Games and at regional, continental and global integrated competitions held under the patronage of the IOC.
  • NOCs are required to participate in the Olympic Games by sending athletes there.
  • The flag, emblem and anthem adopted by the NOC for use in its activities, including the Olympic games, are subject to approval by the IOC Executive Committee.
  • The name of the NOC must comply with the territorial boundaries and traditions of its country and be approved by the IOC Executive Committee. In the Olympic Charter, the word “country” means an independent state recognized by the international community.

By participating as a third party, the ROC will be defending the rights of Russian athletes and All-Russian sports federations to compete under the Russian flag, to participate under equal conditions in the selection procedure, and have access to the Olympic Games, as well as other international competitions.

The Executive Board of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) also decided to participate in this process as a third party. The RPC will be represented by Bonnard Lawson.

In accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code, all CAS decisions regarding RUSADA’s compliance or non-compliance status, as well as the expected consequences and/or proposed conditions for official reinstatement will be binding. They will have to be recognized and enforced by all parties who are signatories to the Code.

Prior to the final decision, all Russian athletes, with the exception of representatives of the All-Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), can participate in competitions under the Russian flag and have the Russian anthem sound if they win. The recommendations of the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) endorsed by WADA’s Executive Committee, as of now, are not legally binding until CAS makes an official ruling.

At the moment, it is important to understand that the consequences of WADA’s Executive Committee decision issued on December 9 to revoke RUSADA status with the World Anti-Doping Code do not deprive clean Russian athletes of the opportunity to participate in international sports events and the Olympic Games. We are talking about restrictions related to national self-identification, as well as the special procedure for determining whether athletes are doping-free or not, which is necessary for clearance in order to participate in competitions.

This approach is due to the possible deprivation of RUSADA’s compliance status and should be under review during court hearings, as the proposed sanctions infringe upon the rights of persons not involved in the essence of the charges and accusations. In this case, clean Russian athletes.