Established in 1983 and starting its operation in 1984, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) is considered essentially an international “Supreme Court” for sport. Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, the basic function of the court is to resolve legal disputes in the field of sport through arbitration. It does this issuing arbitral awards; these have the same enforceability as judgments of an ordinary court.
Throughout the years, certain instances have questioned CAS’s jurisdiction and impartiality. The Court’s short, but relatively rich history includes many benchmarks and milestones that have shaped the court to what it is today.
Currently, the Court is governed by the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (“ICAS”) which was created in 1994. As the governing body of CAS, it overlooks all of the CAS operations, its funding, and arbitrator selection, among other duties. The ICAS and CAS are governed by the “Code”, a charter-like document created in 1994 as a result of the Paris Agreement on 1994.
The Court rules on issues of sport instances that are “off-the-field.” These may come in the form of a commercial or disciplinary nature. Generally speaking, the cases involve issues of contractual nature among teams, governing bodies or corporations, and doping, eligibility, or jurisdictional issues. The Court will seldom rule on an “on-the-field” issue; when it does, the claim must be of a nature that a concern has been raised regarding the validity, legitimacy, or fairness of a rule of play.
The CAS is organized in four divisions: the Ordinary Arbitration Division, the Appeals Arbitration Division, the Ad Hoc Division, and the Mediation Division. (tas-cas.com) Each division handles cases of the same nature. The divisions are differentiated in how the cases reach the Court and the type of decision the case will produce either binding or non-binding.
The ICAS is composed of 20 high-level jurists with significant experience in the field of sport. The CAS is composed of at least 150 arbitrators who possess competence with regard to sports and sports law. The Court included a roster of 275 arbitrators. The Board of Directors of the organization includes 5 members: The President of ICAS and two vice presidents selected from the remaining 19 jurists of the ICAS. The remaining two are the presidents of the Ordinary Arbitration Division of the Court and the Appeals Arbitration Division. The President of the ICAS and the Board is also the President of the CAS as a whole.
The mission of the ICAS and CAS is threefold. It is operational in nature referring to the different methods the Court uses to see a case. The first section of the mission statement is to “resolve the disputes that are referred to them through ordinary arbitration.” The second is to “resolve through the appeals arbitration procedure disputes concerning the decisions of IF’s or other sports-related bodies.” Finally, the third addresses its mediation procedure stating that its purpose is to “provide non-binding advisory opinions at the request of the IOC, the IF’s, the NOC’s, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the associations recognized by the IOC and the Olympic Games Organizing Committees (“OCOG’s”).” (tas-cas.com) The following sections will show how the Court has evolved, how it is currently organized, and how it operates in order to directly address their mission.
The history of the CAS can be classified into two stages regarding its governing body at the time: IOC rule (1984-1994) and ICAS rule (1994-present). Various events, conflicts and intervention from the Swiss government led to this transition of the governing body after 1994. After the reform in 1994, the Court has continued to operate under ICAS rule and from time to time, its authority, independence, and jurisdiction is reiterated and enforced by external governing bodies.
As a result of the increasing number of international sporting...