We hear about it every four years: someone has been caught for doping ahead of the Olympic games. Someone is suspected of doping ahead of the games. The most anticipated sporting event in the world is almost always surrounded by an air of paranoia or sensationalist news headlines with little care for the truth. This is why many law firms offer their services free of charge: to make sure innocent athletes don’t get caught in the crossfire. The 2020 games will be no different.
A good number of these disputes lead to arbitration or mediation in order to keep local courts from being overwhelmed during the games. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) almost always stations itself in the host city in order to organize and classify potential cases into either the Ad Hoc Division or the Anti-Doping Division.
Many lawyers and law firms working pro bono provide services to Olympic athletes in conjunction with CAS. These services range from mere consultation to full representation in either arbitration or court, should the case proceed that far. The purpose of pro bono lawyers isn’t just about protecting athletes, it’s also about making operations run more smoothly in the host city. Athletes aren’t always familiar with another country’s laws, and so disputes are guaranteed to rise.
In the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games, pro bono lawyers were available through 17 barristers’ chambers. 18 advocates were standing by to organize and administer needed services. A management committee kept things mostly in order.
In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games, another pro bono group was organized by the Rio de Janeiro Bar Association. While the 2012 games provided consultation services, the 2016 games did not.
In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency (JSAA) is setting the groundwork for similar pro bono legal services by researching how the 2012 and 2016 services were carried out. The JSAA is no stranger to using arbitration to resolve disputes, having done so since 2003. However there are a number of reasons why the JSAA may not be able to conduct pro bono legal services without outside help, not the least of which is the lack of CAS familiarity.
The Japanese are exceptional learners, however, and their ability to get up to speed when provided a new challenge is unrivaled. Right now, lawyers for the free legal services are currently under review and will be selected shortly ahead of the games. Once these selections have been made, the pro bono lawyers will spend time training so they know what to expect!