IU McKinney School expert in sports law heads to Sochi Games

An Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor is headed for Sochi, Russia, as a member of a highly specialized team selected for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

But Gary Roberts, dean emeritus and Gerald L. Bepko Professor of Law at the McKinney School of Law on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, won’t be competing for the gold.

Roberts, an expert in sports law, is one of nine arbitrators selected to sit on the special tribunal charged with settling all legal disputes related to the Sochi Games. The professor brings more than 30 years of experience in the sports industry and a decade of experience as a sports arbitrator to his seat on the tribunal, known as the Court of Arbitration for Sport ad hoc Division. But that didn’t keep his selection from being a surprise.

“It was a surprise — and a great honor — given that there are only nine from around the world chosen each time,” Roberts said. “I was surprised simply because out of the thousands of talented sports lawyers in the world, and the hundreds of experienced CAS arbitrators around the world, I got selected. It sort of felt like winning the lottery.

While atypical scenarios can arise, cases heard by the Court of Arbitration for the games generally fall into one or two broad categories: a question relating to an athlete’s (or judge’s) eligibility; or a challenge to the outcome of an event, Roberts said.

Cases in the first category can arise because of situations such as a positive drug test, a challenge to the athlete’s country of residence, or a question about the athlete’s gender. Cases in the second category can result when the claimant argues that the rules weren’t followed, the equipment didn’t function properly, or the judges or referees were biased or corrupted.

The International Council of Arbitration for Sport administers and finances the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a permanent arbitration institution headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The International Council of Arbitration for Sport has set up its CAS ad hoc Division at each summer and winter Olympic Games since 1996. The Sochi arbitrators, announced Jan. 20, are either lawyers, judges or professors specialized in sports law and arbitration.

The division provides all participants in the games with free arbitration to settle disputes. Following the filing of a complaint, the court rapidly convenes a hearing during which all parties and witnesses can present their legal arguments and evidence. Generally the court, operating under specially designed logistics and organization structures, renders its decisions within 24 hours of a hearing — time limits set to keep pace with the Olympic competitions.