Germany’s most successful winter sports’ athlete, speed skater, Claudia Pechstein, seems to have landed a surprise legal coup at the Munich District Court in a decision handed down on 26 February, 2014.
Since the Court of Arbitration for Sport had banned Claudia Pechstein for two years because of very peculiar blood values, she has been fighting to re-establish her reputation, because her blood values are allegedly genetically caused. Even though her damage claim against the International Skating Union was turned down, the Munich Court stated that the arbitration clauses which are concluded between athletes and federations in the entry forms and athletes contracts are illegal.
The Court came to this conclusion because these entry forms and athlete contracts are not concluded voluntarily but only because of the structural inequalities that exist between sports federations and athletes. “The plaintiff had no other choice than signing the arbitration clause” and would otherwise “not have been admitted to the competition”, and would have been “prohibited to carry out her profession” the Court stated.
Contrary to the practice of the Swiss Federal Tribunal, it seems as that the ordinary courts of other countries are open to decide sporting disputes despite arbitration clauses. This means that, at least in international sports cases, a door could have been opened through which athletes could escape from the mandatory sports arbitration. On that basis, the exclusive worldwide review of sporting disputes by the Court of Arbitration for Sport could come to an end.
Awaited with great interest is also the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, where the Pechstein case has passed its first hurdle and been accepted for consideration by the Court and is now coming up for review. This decision could also affect the Swiss sports jurisprudence and lead to direct changes in the system of sports arbitration in Switzerland.
Watch this space!
Further information: ‘www.pachmannlaw.ch’