Elite Athletes and Disability Discrimination



McArdle D (2009) Elite Athletes and Disability Discrimination. Cambrian Law Review, 40, pp. 49-62.

This paper considers the Supreme Court judgment in PGA Tour v Casey Martin and the ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Oscar Pistorius v International Association of Athletics Federations. It explores the implications of those decisions for elite athletes with disabilities who wish to participate in ‘mainstream’, non-disabled sport. The paper considers those rulings in the context of Article 30.5 of the Disabilities Convention and concludes that, while both decisions clearly represented successful outcomes for the individual athletes, they are of limited relevance to elite disabled athletes more generally. The language of Article 30.5 does not commit ratifying states to anything more radical than an ‘individualised assessment’ of the kind that should have occurred in PGA Tour, while Oscar Pistorius reveals far more about procedural incompetence on the part of the IAAF than it does about disability discrimination. That said, the Convention’s provisions on compliance monitoring are potentially very significant for all athletes with disabilities, and for that reason the implications of those two judgments have much to offer disability lobbyists and compliance monitoring groups who wish to explore what Article 30.5 may have to offer.

disability discrimination; arbitration; United States; sport; Discrimination in sports Law and legislation; Athletes with disabilities; Court of Arbitration for Sports

Cambrian Law Review: Volume 40

Publication date31/12/2009
PublisherDepartment of Law, University College of Wales
Publisher URL

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Dr David McArdle

Dr David McArdle

Senior Lecturer, Law