Law Report: Athletics drug ban rules not subject to Community law

LAW REPORT 1 July 1997

Edwards v British Athletic Federation and anor; Chancery Division (Mr Justice Lightman) 23 June 1997

Rules of the International Amateur Athletics Federation which were designed to ban cheating by taking drugs were rules which merely regulated the sporting conduct of athletes, and were not therefore subject to European Community law, which was applicable to sport only insofar as it constituted an economic activity.

Mr Justice Lightman dismissed the plaintiff's challenge to the refusal by the Inter- national Amateur Athletics Federation ("the IAAF") to reinstate him before the completion of a four- year ban from athletic competitions imposed for the use of anabolic steroids. The ban had been imposed on the plaintiff, an amateur athlete and a member of the first defendant, the British Athletic Federation ("the BAF"), on 22 October 1994.

The plaintiff challenged the lawfulness of the IAAF's refusal. Remission of a ban had been granted to a number of athletes in a similar position, but whose national athletic associations limited the lawful period of any such ban to two years by their local laws.

The plaintiff contended (a) that the IAAF could not lawfully distinguish his application from those other applications on the ground that the four- year ban was lawful under his local law; and (b) that the refusal of his application constituted discrimination against him which was unlawful under the Treaty of Rome. The IAAF challenged that contention. The BAF adopted a neutral stance.

Stuart Cakebread (Janes) for the plaintiff; Adam Lewis (Farrer & Co) for the BAF; Robert Howe (Herbert Smith) for the IAAF.

Mr Justice Lightman said that as members of the IAAF the various national governing bodies (including the BAF) were required inter alia to adopt provisions in their constitutions mirroring the IAAF's rules in particular so far as they were designed to control drug abuse. The BAF had adopted those provisions.

Rule 60(2)(a) provided that an athlete who committed a doping offence involving, in particular, the taking of an anabolic steroid would be ineligible on a first offence for a minimum of four years to take part in competitions held under the IAAF's rules or the domestic rules of its members. Rule 60(8) provided, however, that in exceptional circumstances an athlete might apply to the Council of the IAAF for reinstatement before the expiration of that period.

The first issue to be decided was whether Articles 59 to 66 of the Treaty of Rome had any application to the operation of rule 60. Article 6 of the Treaty stated that discrimination on grounds of nationality was prohibited; and Articles 59 to 66 prohibited such discrimination in the freedom to provide services for remuneration within the EU.

The plaintiff contended that the four-year ban imposed on him was an interference with his freedom to earn his living as an athlete within the EU. Community law was applic-able to sport only insofar as it constituted an economic activity. The critical question raised in the present case was whether the drug control provisions of the rules and particularly the provisions for sanction in case of a drug offence, constituted an exclusively sporting rule.

Rules 55 to 61 appeared merely to regulate the sporting conduct of participants in athletics. They were designed to ban cheating by taking drugs and thus secure a level playing field for all participants in the sport. The imposition of penalties for cheating was essential if the rules against it were to be effective.

The imposition of the sanction might of necessity have serious economic consequences for those who breached the rules, but that was merely incidental. A rule designed to regulate the sporting conduct of participants did not cease to be such a rule because it did not allow those who broke it to earn remuneration by participating in the sport for what was, by common consent, an appropriate period.

In view of that decision it was not necessary to decide whether the operation by the IAAF of rule 60(8) to reinstate athletes whose local rules limited the period of a ban to two years of itself constituted unjustifiable discrimination on grounds of nationality in the sense prohibited under Articles 6 and 59 to 66 of the Treaty. The matter would, however, be dealt with briefly.

The policy which sought only to accommodate rule 60 to diffences in national law was not discriminatory: it merely ensured that the IAAF and the application of rule 60 kept within the various national laws.

The action was accordingly dismissed.

Kate O'Hanlon, Barrister

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering