In a German-language decision dated 2 February 2018, the Swiss Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) award.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) investigated Tatyana Chernova, a Russian athlete and Olympic bronze medalist in the heptathlon, for doping. According to the applicable regulations, ensuing disciplinary proceedings would first be conducted by the athlete's national federation, here the All Russian Athletics Federations (ARAF). In the present case, however, the ARAF's membership in IAAF was suspended for what the Supreme Court referred to as a "systematic interference with and circumvention of anti-doping testing". The IAAF, therefore, took charge of the disciplinary proceedings and, upon Chernova's request for a hearing, directly referred the case to a sole arbitrator appointed by CAS.
Chernova contested the sole arbitrator's jurisdiction, arguing that in line with the IAAF's rules, she was first entitled to a hearing under the auspices of ARAF. Only if ARAF failed to complete such hearing within two months, could IAAF initiate CAS proceedings. When the sole arbitrator and subsequently the CAS appeal chamber rejected this argument, Chernova appealed to the Court.
The Court dismissed the challenge, holding that Chernova could not rely on R47 CAS Rules, which requires exhaustion of legal remedies prior to a CAS appeal, to argue a lack of jurisdiction because the present proceedings did not constitute appeal proceedings, but rather ordinary arbitration proceedings. In light of ARAF's suspension, IAAF was not required to formally set ARAF a deadline to conduct a hearing. Rather IAAF, taking into account the purpose of the relevant provisons of the Competiton Rules, in the current circumstances was entitled to refer the dispute directly to the CAS. Therefore, the sole arbitrator correctly assumed jurisdiction. Confirming its case law, the Court found that when interpreting rules of large sports organizations, methods of contract interpretation focusing on the parties' actual or objective intent are less apt than objective interpretation methods used to interpret statutory laws
Case: Decision 4A_490/2017 (Swiss Supreme Court).