Legal support system to be created for Tokyo 2020 Games athletes

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunA legal support system will be established for athletes dissatisfied with the results of competitions and doping tests during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, with an aim of settling such disputes as soon as possible, it has been learned.

Under the envisaged system, lawyers from the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency (SEE BELOW) in Tokyo are expected to provide legal support to athletes on an around-the-clock basis during the Games.

A steering committee for creating the system was launched in autumn 2018 by lawyers serving as the agency’s directors and professors affiliated with the Japan Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel. The panel is a permanent body that disciplines Japanese athletes and others caught doping in domestic athletic events.

According to the steering committee, athletes who test positive for doping at the Games or wish to contest the outcomes of competitions will be able to file an appeal with an ad-hoc office to be opened in Tokyo by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The ad-hoc office will in principle issue verdicts within 24 hours.

There will be ample need for legal support from Japanese lawyers and other experts, especially for athletes not accompanied by lawyers from their countries during the Games.

In addition to competition-related disputes, cases may arise where lawyers familiar with Japan’s judicial system are needed to address crimes or accidents involving athletes.

Since late April, the committee has been recruiting about 30 lawyers to represent athletes who file complaints, and another 30 or so lawyers to provide athletes with general legal advice in criminal and civil cases. The committee is expected to register the lawyers by this summer. The committee then plans to invite CAS officials to Japan to offer training in arbitration procedures and other matters.

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), the Japan Sports Agency, the Justice Ministry and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations are cooperating with the steering committee, which also plans to publicize the system overseas.

“[The creation of the system] will also benefit the Japanese legal community, given it will provide training to lawyers well-versed in sports law,” said Takashi Ito, a lawyer from the Daini Tokyo Bar Association. Ito also serves as director of the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency and is a steering committee official.

“We want to provide legal support to any athletes from all over the world so they can participate in the Games with ease,” he said.

According to the CAS, an ad-hoc office of this kind was first established for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Beginning with those Games, more than 100 disputes have been brought to offices of this nature during the 12 Summer and Winter Olympics held through the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, 28 cases were brought to the ad-hoc office, the highest total thus far.

At the Nagano Winter Games in 1998, a Canadian snowboarder appealed to an ad-hoc CAS office after he was stripped of a gold medal for testing positive for marijuana. The CAS reversed the decision and reinstated his medal, saying the IOC did not have clear rules on penalties for marijuana.

At the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games, about 20 local lawyers volunteered to assist athletes, offering consultations on the selection of national team members, doping violations and competitive results. Consultations were also reportedly offered for match-fixing and ticket scalping.

Japan Sports Arbitration Agency

A third-party organization that mediates disputes between sports organizations and Japanese athletes over the selection of national team members and the results of doping tests, among other issues. It was established in 2003 with funding from the Japanese Olympic Committee and other organizations. Also dubbed the “Japanese CAS,” lawyers and university professors affiliated with the agency serve as judges in arbitration cases. Arbitration hearings are based on the agreement of both parties, who are obliged to comply with the agency’s verdict.Speech

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