Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - Perspective
Haywood National Team Report – Athletes Get Their Day in Court

- By: Beckie Scott

It was in July of this past summer that I learned I would be able to participate in the hearings that were going before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the doping cases of the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.

Initially I was a little reluctant as it would mean traveling to Lausanne, Switzerland within days of just getting married.  The return was equally daunting going directly into a high altitude training camp in Utah.  Eventually I decided that if my presence there could, or would, influence the decision in any way positively, I had to go.

Thankfully the travel over was stress-free and pretty comfortable (that would be thanks to upgrades from Air Canada!) and my time spent actually on the ground was considerably less than in the air, so jet lag was not a problem. Staying awake during hour 6 of the 11-hour proceedings was a bit more of a challenge, but that’s another story…

As a little background, the case that went to the CAS in September was launched jointly by the Norwegian and Canadian Olympic Committees and was essentially asking the CAS to instruct the IOC to remove all the medals won by Danilova (Russian) and Muehlegg (Spaniard) at the 2002 Olympic games. This request was based on and backed up by wording in the Olympic Charter that states that should an athlete be “expelled” from the games for doping, they then have to return “any and all” medals won at those games. As it happened, the athletes who were “expelled” from the games were only required by the IOC to return the medals from the races they tested positive in, even though they had won several others between them.

Both the Norwegian and Canadian legal contingents felt it would be valuable to have the athletes who were directly affected by the outcome present and as such, I was there along with Thomas Alsgaard, Frode Estil, and Kristen Skjeldal from Norway. Being that we were basically the only people in the room who weren’t lawyers, it made for some good conversation at the lunch break when we met up and were able to discuss amongst ourselves our impressions of what was going on.

The proceedings began at 8am, we finished just before 8pm and it will have to suffice for me to say that being a part of it was an extremely interesting (and enlightening) experience. I’m afraid I can’t go into details as there’s a confidentiality clause and all, but at the end of the day I was very happy I went and felt that I gained some very valuable insight into how these processes work and play out. I think too that having us (the athletes) there somehow brought home the reality of the situation to the panel and let them know that we, the people sitting right there in front of them, would be the ones directly affected by their decision.

Now, it is a waiting game. After nearly one and a half years, a decision will be announced this fall. I confess that I think about it a lot; wondering what the discussions following the hearings contained, speculating that this judgment could indeed be historical, reflecting on the precedence of this case…. Mostly though, I just hold out hope. Hope that somehow our arguments were compelling enough, hope that we convinced someone within the right authority to do the right thing, and hope that somehow, somewhere along this long, legal line of proceedings and hearings that there is at least a little bit of integrity left in sport.

Source: Cross Country Canada

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