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Ontario Transgender Cyclist Kristen Worley Challenges IOC and Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

by John Symon

December 26, 2015 (Toronto, ON) – A transgender cyclist from Ontario is making news in Europe over her human rights court challenge to what constitutes “a healthy level of androgens in her body” reports CBC. Kristen Worley, who was born a man but competes in cycling as a woman, has filed a precedent-making case with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Court documents filed on her behalf claim that her healthy level of androgens (male sex hormones), as recommended by her doctors, exceeds the level mandated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Worley further claims that this situation leaves her in “an extreme post-menopausal state” and too ill to cycle. The UCI is not mentioned in the CBC report, but is presumably is following IOC guidelines in this case.

Meanwhile, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has filed documents with the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, alleging that for the Human Rights Tribunal to accept Worley’s case would violate Switzerland’s jurisdiction, and proceeding with the case would significantly undermine the independence of the IOC and of the Olympic Movement.

CAS was initiated in 1964 to provide a single court of appeal in sporting cases worldwide to prevent a patchwork of contradictory rulings in different jurisdictions. But its critics allege a structural bias against athletes and in favour of sports federations.

According to a BBC report in Feb. of this year, a German court agreed with such critics in dealing with the case of speed skater Claudia Pechstein. Described as “the most successful Olympic speed skater, male or female, of all-time” by Wikipedia, Pechstein sat out a controversial two year-ban from 2009-2011 for blood doping based on irregular blood reticulocytes, but never actually failed a doping test. A German court has now overturned the CAS ruling putting the Swiss body’s jurisdiction into question.

Pechstein’s case is now facing another appeal, and should she win, it will likely lead to more local jurisdiction challenges of CAS authority. However, Antoine Duval, a researcher in international sports law at the TMC Asser Institute in The Hague, Netherlands, believes that this will not lead to the demise of the CAS.

Pedal reached out to Worley but did not hear back by press time and understands she was actively racing until 2012.

As an aside, three-time champion Pechstein was famously bested by Canadian speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes by one second in the 5,000m race at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics. Fellow Canadian Cindy Klassen finished third at that race. Hughes, now retired, is the only athlete worldwide to have won multiple Olympic medals at both Summer and Winter Games (as a cyclist and speed skater). In September of this year, Hughes made headlines following a CBC interview regarding the release of her book Open Heart Open Mind where she admitted to a doping infraction back in 1994.

CBC report here.
BBC report here.
L’Équipe (France) here.
Wikipedia on Pechstein here.

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