25 March 2020

WADA welcomes dismissal of Russian cyclists’ lawsuit

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) welcomes the recent decision by the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, Canada, dismissing a lawsuit commenced by three Russian cyclists against WADA and Canadian Professor Richard H. McLaren, O.C.

The cyclists claimed damages they alleged to have suffered as a result of their exclusion from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Specifically, they claimed that they were excluded from the Games as a result of the findings made by Professor McLaren in the Independent Person Report, commissioned by WADA, which considered allegations of widespread doping and manipulation of doping controls within Russia.

In response to the filing of the claim, WADA and Professor McLaren successfully brought motions for summary judgement dismissing the cyclists’ claim. The summary judgment motions were heard before the Hon. Justice Faieta in Toronto on 16 May 2019 and a ruling was issued on 11 February 2020. In granting summary dismissal, the court ruled that the issues raised by the Russian cyclists were essentially sports-related matters that fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of, and had to be resolved by, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland. The court also held that the filing of the claim in Ontario was an abuse of process.

Specifically, the Hon. Justice Faieta held: “This was a dispute that the plaintiffs placed before the CAS for adjudication. Having failed to obtain a declaration from the IOC that they be granted entry to Rio 2016, the plaintiffs should not be permitted to re-litigate the factual matrix of this dispute in this court by dressing up it up as a tort claim.”

He added: “To allow this action to proceed would undermine the Olympic Movement and, in particular, the dispute resolution provisions found in the Olympic Charter by signaling to the international community that domestic courts are willing to entertain disputes that, at their core, are matters connected to the Olympic Games that should be determined exclusively by a specialized tribunal in accordance with the provisions of the Olympic Charter or other provisions approved by the IOC.”

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “WADA welcomes the decision to dismiss this claim. It is an important ruling that upholds CAS decisions, which are accepted and supported by the entire sports movement. This judgement rightly closes the door on attempts to re-litigate matters through the filing of domestic claims.”

“I am pleased that this case is over. Our investigation was thorough, professional and our findings were beyond question,” said Professor McLaren, who teaches law at Western University in Ontario. “CAS is an independent institution specifically set up to resolve sports-related disputes. The plaintiffs’ claims always belonged there for resolution. Not in the provincial court system.”

Legal costs and disbursements were also awarded in favor of WADA and Professor McLaren. The appeal period has expired and this matter is at an end.