Olympics and International Sports Law Research Guide
This guide is for researching the legal aspects of the Olympic Games. General international sports law resources are also included.
Olympics & International Sports Law Research Guide
Along with the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games are the world's most recognized international sporting event. Started in ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were revived in modern times in 1896 and occur every four years. This guide is provided as an aid in researching the structure and legal aspects of the Olympic Movement. This will also encompass general international sports law resources as connected to the Olympics. We also provide a Sports Law Research Guide for those seeking assistance with U.S. sports law.
Key Olympics Web Sites
These essential sites provide current news and information on the Games.
- International Olympic Committee
The IOC is the authoritative body of the Olympic Movement.
This is the official web site of the Olympic Movement with brief explanations of the commissions and committees. Use the timeline feature to select previous Olympic games with photos, facts, and information on the athletes.
- Sochi 2014
The official site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be held in Rio.
The founding document of the Olympic Movement is the Olympic Charter, which addresses the legal status of the International Olympic Committee, the role of the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees, the World Anti-Doping Code, as well as the Olympic flag, emblems, motto and flame, among other things. The Olympic Charter also states that all disputes that arise in connection with the Olympic Games shall be submitted exclusively to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Founded on June 23, 1894 by French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is an international non-governmental organization that is the final authority on the Olympic Movement. The IOC owns the rights to the Olympic symbols, flag, motto and anthem. The Executive Board of the IOC assumes many of the legislative functions of the organization and is responsible for enacting all regulations necessary for the full implementation of the Olympic Charter. The Executive Board is assisted in its administrative function by several commissions, including ethics (including decisions), TV rights and new media, and sport and law.
The individual members of the IOC represent the IOC in their respective countries. Unlike congressional or parliamentary members, they do not represent the interests of their individual countries to the IOC. There are currently 110 members of the IOC.
International Federations (IFs)
Each sport is governed internationally by an International Federation (IF) which is a non-governmental organization responsible for the administration of one or more sports at the international level. For example, the International Skating Union and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) are examples of IFs. International Federations often set the rules and procedures for international competitions. They are recognized by the IOC and cooperate with it by ensuring that their activities comply with the Olympic Charter and IFs are responsible for the technical control of their sport at the Olympic games. To locate a particular IF, click on the sport at the Olympic website. Athletes and individual sports are also governed by national bodies in their home country. These national bodies are members of their respective international federations as well.
|Category||International Federations Examples||National Association Examples|
|Summer Olympic Sports||Badminton World Federation, Association Internationale de Boxe, Federation Internationale de Gymnastiques||Badminton Association of India, Botswana Boxing Association, Japan Gymnastic Association, Swimming Australia|
|Winter Olympic Sports||World Curling Federation, International Ice Hockey Federation, International Ski Association||Finnish Curling Association, Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, Federazione Italiana Sport Invernali|
There is a category known as Recognized Sports that also have international federations and national associations. According to this list from the Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations, there are currently 32 recognized sports, including chess, rugby and bowling. These disciplines are recognized by the IOC, but are not events in the Olympic games. Occasionally, these sports may be added to the Olympic games (such as curling in 1998). Sporting events may also be dropped (such as softball, water skiing, and tug of war) from the games.
National Olympic Committees (NOCs)
Each country that belongs to the International Olympic Committee has in turn its own National Olympic Committee (NOC). These national committees promote the development of their respective national athletes and select which ones will attend the Olympic Games. The NOCs also nominate host cities for selection by the International Olympic Committee. There are currently 205 NOCs organized into five regional associations.
- ANOCA (Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa)
- PASO (Pan American Sports Organization)
- OCA (Olympic Council of Asia)
- EOC (European Olympic Committees)
- ONOC (Oceana National Olympic Committees)
Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games (OCOGs)
The IOC entrusts the organization of the Olympic Games to the NOC of the host country. The local NOC forms an OCOG to accomplish the task of organizing the Olympic Games for a given year. OCOGs must comply with three sources of authority: the Olympic Charter, the contract entered into between the IOC, the NOC of the host country, and the host city, and the instructions from the IOC Executive Board.
With the substantial economic and commercial impact of international sports comes the increased likelihood of dispute. In 1983, the IOC established the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as a court with specialized knowledge in the field of sports. CAS is also know by its French name, Tribunal Arbitral du Sport (TAS). Disputes concerning game rules, disqualifications, and other technical questions are settled by the relevant sport body (IF, IOC, national sport organization, for example). Non-technical issues (such as sponsorships, suspension, etc) are settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
In 1994, CAS underwent substantial changes in its structure and procedures. From 1983 until 1994, CAS was monitored and solely funded by the IOC. In 1994, the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS) was formed to administer and fund CAS. This change secured the independent status of CAS. The creation of ICAS and the changes in the structure of CAS were finalized in a document called the Paris Agreement. For a printed version of this agreement, see Digest of CAS Awards II 1998-2000 (Mattieu Reeb, ed. 2002), page 883 located in the Wolff Library at K3702.C68 2002.
The Code of Sports-related Arbitration spells out the two divisions of CAS: the Ordinary Arbitration Division and the Appeals Arbitration Division. The Ordinary Division functions as a court of sole instance. The Appeals Division hears cases brought to it on appeal from the various IFs and other sports organizations. CAS also has the power to issue advisory opinions. In rare instances, CAS decisions can be appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal. In addition to ordinary and appeals divisions, CAS forms special ad hoc divisions to hear urgent cases that arise during the Olympic Games. The turn-around time for arbitration decisions made by the ad hoc division is as short as 24 hours.
Parties generally agree to refer their disputes to CAS in their individual arbitration agreements. All Olympic IFs except one, and many of the NOCs have included a CAS arbitration clause in their agreements.
CAS Arbitral Awards
CAS hears cases on a variety of subjects, including doping, issues of nationality, advertising sponsorship, judging matters and other subjects of a commercial or disciplinary nature. Web and print access to published CAS awards are explained below.
CAS arbitral awards are published on the CAS Case law page and are divided into recent decisions and archived decisions. Selected awards are published in print in the following publications. Not all older awards are published. Awards are selected for publication on the basis of their impact on CAS case law and on sports law in general. All awards are usually published in both English and French, the two official languages of CAS.
- Recueil des sentences du TAS: Digest of CAS Awards: 1986-1998 INTL K3702 .C68 1998
- Recueil des sentences du TAS: Digest of CAS Awards II : 1998-2000 INTL K3702 .C68 2002
- Recueil des sentences du TAS: Digest of CAS Awards III: 2001-2003 INTL K3702 .C68 2004
- CAS Awards - Sydney INTL K3702 .C863 2000
Since 1996, there is a CAS ad hoc division at each Olympic games to settle disputes within 24 hours. For the Sydney games, CAS published this separate volume to document the fifteen cases. Selected decisions from other Olympics are published in Recueil des sentences du TAS: Digest of CAS Awards above and on the CAS web site.
Gay Rights Concerns
For the Sochi Winter Games, a particular concern has been Russia's harsh anti-gay propaganda laws which prevent discussion of nontraditional sexual relations in front of minors. Many gay rights activists have advocated for protests of Olympic sponsors, and protests during the games, rather than boycotts of the games themselves. In response to Russia's crackdown on its gay, lesbian, and transgender community, President Obama voiced displeasure and the U.S. delegation to Sochi includes three openly gay athletes.
Likewise, with two bombing incidents occurring in the near-by city of Volgogard, concerns have been raised regarding the safety of those participating in the Sochi games. No one has stepped forward to take responsibility for the bombings, which occurred on December 29 and 30 and resulted in the deaths of more than thirty people. NBC, the U.S. broadcasting company that will air the games, has stated it is taking the security threat seriously, though it has not enhanced its security measures.
On Tuesday, January 21, 2014, security forces in Sochi warned residents of the potential for a suicide attack by three women, one of whom was believed to already be in Sochi. The United States has offered to assist in security planning.
Much of the controversy surrounding the Olympics and sports in general is related to doping. Doping is the use of prohibited substances to enhance performance in sports. This section provides an overview of the legal responses to this issue.
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
The World Anti-Doping Agency was established pursuant to the Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport and is organized ,to promote and coordinate at the international level the fight against doping in sport in all its forms (see article 4, no. 1 of the WADA's Constitutive Instrument). WADA cooperates in this endeavor with the IOC, the NOCs, the IFs and national anti-doping organizations.
WADA monitors compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code, the worldwide standard for anti-doping regulations. More than 630 sport organizations and national anti-doping agencies have adopted the Code. The Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport is a non-binding political document through which governments signal their intention to formally recognize and implement the World Anti-Doping Code. Neither the code nor the declaration are formal treaties.
The World Anti-Doping Code works with five international standards. The annually updated Prohibited List is one of these standards and it spells out precisely which substances are banned from use by athletes in sporting events. Enforcement under the Code is accomplished through sanctions (see articles10-12 of the code) .
National & Supranational Anti-Doping Agencies
This selective list of national anti-doping agencies highlights those agencies with a strong Web presence. WADA provides a useful list of national organizations that have adopted the code. WADA also has some foreign legislation related to anti-doping. Please note that each sport federation also has regulations regarding doping.
- Australian Sports Drug Agency
- European Union - Sport
This section of the EU website offers good information on recent anti-doping activities. Use the menu box on the right to access documents, working group meetings, and a doping library.
- Nationale Anti-Doping Agentur
- UK Sport
- United States Anti-Doping Agency
Anti-Doping Treaties and Declarations
- Anti-Doping Convention
This regional anti-doping treaty was concluded by the Council of Europe and has been ratified by 46 countries. COE has an interesting website with many resources including foreign doping legislation, national policies, and recommendations.
- Cape Town Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport
- International Convention against Doping in Sport
This is a UNESCO treaty and 128 states are parties to this treaty.
- Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport
WADA was established pursuant to the terms of this 1999 declaration from the first World Conference on Doping in Sport.
Olympian Fashions - Why the Norwegian Curlers are the Best
While the U.S. will attend the Opening Ceremonies looking like they're attending an Ugly Holiday Sweater Party, the Norwegian Curling Team will once again show the world why they should win all the sartorial awards.
UPDATE: To the eternal sadness of all those who love Olympic fashions, and recognize greatness when it occurs, the Norwegians lost in a tie-breaker with Great Britain. Some suspect that it was because they ran out of pants designs. Whatever the reason, they are greatly missed. See you in four years, Pants!
Selected Books on the Olympics & International Sports Law
To locate additional books on the Olympics and international sports law, search in the Library catalog using keywords. The publications listed below are only a starting point for your research.
- Arbitral and Disciplinary Rules of International Sports Organisations INTL K 3702 .A73 2001
Handy collection of rules from various organizations, however, we suggest checking the website for each sport organization for updated rules information.
- Arbitration at the Olympics : Issues of Fast-Track Dispute Resolution and Sports Law INTL K3702 .K38 2001
Specifically discusses the CAS ad hoc divisions which are set up to quickly settle disputes within 24 hours at the Olympics.
- Court of Arbitration for Sport 1984-2004 INTL K3702.C682 2006
A collection of essays examining various aspects of the court upon its twentieth anniversary.
- The European Union and Sport: Legal and Policy Documents INTL KJE6063 .E97 2005
Starting with the Walrave judgment in 1974, this book contains legal and policy texts for the European Union, regarding sports law. The texts are arranged by themes and chronologically listed within each theme.
- Handbook on International Sports Law INTL K3702.H36 2011
A thorough introduction to international sports law with an extra focus on the IOC, other international sports federations, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Attention is given to litigation of disputes, especially those that arise from doping and gambling.
- International Sports Law INTL K3702 .N34 2004
Great introduction to this topic and provides information on all the various elements and organizations. Also discusses doping, violence, and boycotts.
- Introduction to International and European Sports Law: Capita Selecta INTL K3702.S54 2012
This treatise focuses on the EU and international sports arenas. Among its many topics are doping, boycotts, selling of TV rights, and a lengthy discussion of football (soccer).
- Mediating Sports Disputes : National and International Perspectives INTL K3702 .B53 2002
A useful introduction to the issues of arbitration and mediation within sports. Some discussion of foreign jurisdictions.
- The Law of the Olympic Games K3702.M47 2009
Provides an historical overview of the rules and institutions of the Games. Some basic documents are also included.
- Strict Liability Principle and the Human Rights of Athletes in Doping Cases INTL K3702.S64 2006
This publications specifically addresses the legal position of the athlete when accused of doping. Definitions, sanctions, and due process are a few of the areas discussed.
- Athletic Enhancement, Human Nature and Ethics: Threats and Opportunities of Doping Technologies RC1230 .A84 2013
Various intellectuals weigh in on doping in international sports; the reasons and implications.
- A Guide to the World Anti-Doping Code: A Fight for the Spirit of Sport INTL
RC1230 .D38 2013
This book covers the ever-evolving international sports doping law, with a focus on the code after its recent 2009 revisions. It contains more than 40 summaries of recent doping cases.
We have many sports law reviews as well as access to many other sports related journals. We suggest keyword searching in our online catalog < sports or sport > and limit to publication type journal/serial. The titles below are merely a starting point. We have both print and online access to these titles, but we've provided a link only to the electronic version. You may also want to consult this handy guide to our many journal databases.
- The Entertainment and Sports Lawyer - Available online
- Marquette Sports Law Review - Available online.
- Seton Hall Journal of Sport Law and Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law - Available online.
- Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law - Available online.
- Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Journal - Available online.
- Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal - Available online.
Updated Feb. 2014 (hec)
Updated June 2012 (EC)
© Georgetown University Law Library. These guides may be used for educational purposes, as long as proper credit is given. These guides may not be sold. Requests to republish or adapt a guide should be directed to the Head of Reference. Proper credit includes the statement: Written by, or adapted from, Georgetown Law Library (current as of .....).