The Blanket Banning Of Russian Participation In The Paralympics; Swiss Courts To Choose Between Blackstone And Pol Pot

Author:Mr Stephen Hornsby
Profession:Goodman Derrick LLP

According to the great English jurist William Blackstone, it is better that ten guilty men go unpunished than one innocent man is convicted.  Authoritarian opponents of Blackstone (who, Wikipedia informs us, include Bismarck, Dick Cheney and Pol Pot) would appear to have been joined by the Court of Arbitration for Sport( CAS). CAS has decided that the Paralympic organisation was entitled under its rules to exclude all Russians from participation on the basis of their collective (rather than individual) "guilt" because they come from a country that has been found to have sponsored doping of athletes.

The CAS decision is in stark contrast to that of the IOC, who famously washed its hands of this matter and allowed individual federations to decide on participation.  This resulted in the very probable (but unprovable) outcome that a number of Russian athletes who had breached doping rules did take part in the Olympics  but did not result in the exclusion of innocent athletes - as the Paralympic ban probably did.

Naturally the Russians are incensed. Even though it made no difference to participation of their athletes in the Paralympics, which start this week, the Russians have appealed the decision of CAS to the Swiss Courts, relying, ironically, on highly bourgeois concepts of human rights that are somewhat foreign to their rather more authoritarian traditions.

Swiss Courts are bound by the European Convention of Human Rights which contains principles which would find support in Blackstone's maxim.  Indeed, Blackstone was one of the inspirations of the entire human rights legislation and Switzerland does take human rights seriously.  So advantage Russia?

Moreover, when they don't abdicate responsibility, like the IOC, sports regulatory bodies themselves tend to fight shy of punishing the innocent - perhaps sacrificing the effectiveness of sanctions as a result. Thus clubs who have infringed sporting rules...

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