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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?