Five Questions on the 2018 Winter Olympics with Attorney David Evans of Murphy & King PC and Arbitrator in the Court of Arbitration for Sport

David Evans Phot

The Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea will be broadcast tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC, and Attorney David Evans, shareholder of Murphy & King PC, has some insight into the controversy surrounding the suspension of Russian athletes for violating the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) anti-doping rules. Evans serves on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that oversees disputes in a wide-range of sporting events including the Olympics.  The CAS, based in Lausenne, Switzerland, is often referred to as the “Sports Supreme Court,” is an international institution independent of any sports organization which provides for services to facilitate the settlement of sport-related disputes, through arbitration or mediation, by means of procedural rules adapted to the specific needs of the sport world. David answered 5 questions about the 2018 Olympics and the CAS.

  1. What is the controversy about regarding the suspension of the Russian athletes for doping?

It’s an extremely complicated an unprecedented situation. Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned the Russian Olympic Committee from participating in the 2018 Olympics due to widespread, state-sponsored doping and falsification of test results at the Sochi games in 2014. The IOC left open the prospect of Russian athletes competing under a neutral Olympics flag if they could satisfy certain criteria. Since then, 169 athletes were screened and proven to be drug-free. A number of athletes banned from the games appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

On Feb. 1, CAS found in favor of 28 athletes, concluding that the IOC had presented insufficient evidence. The IOC openly criticized the decisions (although the reasoned opinions have not issued), and stated that it would not “invite” the athletes to the games. Meanwhile, 45 athletes and 2 coaches barred from competing have lost appeals to CAS, including 13 athletes and 2 coaches effectively cleared by CAS for lack of evidence. CAS ruled that IOC had the right to set its own standards for who is eligible. CAS has established an ad hoc division at the Games for the sole purpose of handling anti-doping disputes. The rift between the IOC and CAS has created much tension, and a basis for Russia to argue that the IOC is politically-motivated.

  1. What role does the CAS have during the Olympic Games?

Besides anti-doping issues, CAS has an on-site ad hoc division that adjudicates all disputes that arise during the games – from complaints about scoring to equipment challenges.

  1. Why does it seem that scoring/judging is somewhat arbitrary in sports such as figure skating and gymnastics?

Anything that is not based on a clock is subject to dispute (and even some that are – remember the Russian-USA basketball fiasco decades ago). It is mitigated in some events by having many judges, and throwing out the high and low scores.

  1. Do you expect that there will be challenges to scoring during the winter Olympics?

Probably not many challenges per se, but lots of complaints. It’s a reflection of the broader geopolitical picture.

  1. The IOC President is reportedly at odds with CAS, is that expected or has animosity worsened recently?

It’s orders of magnitude worse than I’ve ever seen. In my view, it is disgraceful for Thomas Bach (IOC President) to criticize an adjudicatory process (without even seeing the reasoned opinions) and calling for structural changes at CAS “to better manage the quality and the consistency of its jurisdiction.”