Arbitration

Arbitration is a flexible and efficient way to resolve disputes. Parties present arguments and evidence to an arbitrator, who makes a binding and enforceable decision. In the National Sports Tribunal, the arbitrator will be an NST Member.

The NST CEO will allocate a panel of one or more NST Members to hear a matter, in consultation with the parties. We conduct the process in private unless parties agree otherwise.

A decision made through arbitration is final, binding and enforceable.

Reasons to use arbitration

We can use arbitration for disputes over:

Arbitration is the only dispute resolution method available for anti-doping disputes. Mediation, conciliation and case appraisal are not suitable or available for anti-doping disputes.

In arbitration, an impartial third party – the NST Member – will hear evidence and decide how to resolve a dispute. All of the NST's Members are highly experienced and qualified. They are top sport administrators, legal and medical professionals working in sport, and former elite athletes.

If you use arbitration, the NST member makes a decision, so you are guaranteed to get an outcome. Arbitration provides a certain resolution that is binding and can be enforced. This is different to other dispute resolution processes like mediation and conciliation, which rely on the parties reaching a mutually agreed resolution.

Depending on the complexity of the issues, the NST CEO, in consultation with the parties, may allocate more than 1 NST Member to hear the dispute. If there is only 1 NST Member hearing a dispute, they will usually have legal qualifications. If more than 1 NST Member hears a dispute:

  • the presiding Member – the Member in charge – will usually have legal qualifications
  • the other NST Members may be specialists in the subject matter of the dispute

In arbitration, there is a much greater emphasis on producing evidence and ‘proving’ facts compared with mediation, conciliation or case appraisal because the NST Member’s decision will be binding and enforceable. This is why the NST has extra powers when it comes to conducting arbitrations. We can issue a notice to any person or organisation, requiring them to provide documents or things, or to appear as a witness before the NST to give evidence.

Cost

Costs for arbitration vary:

  • Anti-doping cases – no cost for most sports and their athletes, except in very complex cases
  • Other types of sporting disputes – $500 application fee
  • Appeals – $1500 application fee
  • Service charges – may be negotiated with the CEO at the Preliminary Conference. For most sports there will be no service charges for anti-doping matters.

Arbitration process

See Our process for how we handle dispute resolution generally.

There are a few details specific to arbitration:

  1. You advise the NST that you wish to have your dispute resolved by arbitration when you lodge an application with the Registry. All anti-doping disputes are resolved via arbitration.
  2. For anti-doping disputes there is no application fee.
  3. For other general sport-related disputes, before we can formally accept an application for an arbitration, either:
    • you must pay the application fee (the parties can decide how to split the application fee between them), or
    • apply for us to waive the fee on the grounds of financial hardship
  4. Once we receive an application and accept it as valid, the Registry notifies the other parties that an application has been accepted as valid, and invite them to submit a Response to the application.
  5. The NST Registry will then organise a Preliminary Conference with the parties. During the Preliminary Conference, the CEO or (their delegate) will work together with the parties to determine:
    • the issues in scope for the arbitration
    • the witnesses (expert or otherwise) that parties would like to give evidence
    • the key evidence that parties will be providing, or may request another party to provide
    • the timeframes for filing documentary evidence and making submissions
    • the likely timeframes for conducting the arbitration
    • other interested or involved parties that have not been previously identified
    • the potential number of NST Members (as arbitrators)
    • logistics – the time and location of any hearing
    • costs (including how these will be apportioned between parties)
  6. After the Preliminary Conference, the NST CEO will allocate an NST Member/s to hear the matter, usually after consulting the parties. When necessary, more than 1 NST Member can be appointed on a panel to hear a case. In this circumstance, a Presiding NST Member will be appointed to be in charge.
  7. After the Preliminary Conference, the parties sign a Preliminary Conference Agreement and pay the agreed costs before the hearing. The Preliminary Conference Agreement includes a confirmation that parties will abide by the NST Member’s decision, which is binding and enforceable.
  8. If required, NST Members may conduct one or more Pre-Hearing Conferences prior to the main hearing of the dispute. We normally conduct Pre-Hearing Conferences by telephone, or another form of electronic communication, unless all involved parties agree to a Pre-Hearing Conference in person.
  9. We may determine the following in a Pre-Hearing Conference:
    • the timeframes for parties to file additional documentary evidence and make additional submissions
    • any additional witnesses (expert or otherwise) that the parties or the NST Member would like to call to give evidence
    • whether the hearing will be transcribed
    • the date for the hearing
  10. In some circumstances, the NST Member may determine a dispute without a hearing, known as a "decision on the papers".
  11. In most cases, an arbitration hearing will be similar to a court hearing. The NST Member – the arbitrator – will:
    • give the parties an opportunity to put forward their evidence, make their submissions and arguments, and respond to the evidence and submissions of the other party
    • ask the parties (or their representatives) questions
    • ask witnesses questions. The parties will usually be allowed to ask witnesses questions as well.
  12. Following the hearing, the arbitrator/s will make a decision about the outcome and issue it to the parties via the Registry.
  13. Alternatively, the arbitrator may tell the parties their decision at the end of the hearing. They then provide written reasons immediately after the hearing.

Considering if arbitration is right for you

Is your dispute related to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation? If so, arbitration is the only dispute resolution method available for your dispute.

How complex is your matter? Are there a large range of complex issues about which you and the other participant/s disagree? If yes, then arbitration may be right for you.

How much are you willing to pay to resolve this case? Apart from anti-doping disputes (which must use arbitration, and for most sports are free), there may be lower-cost options for you to consider. Usually, mediation, conciliation and case appraisal are cheaper than arbitration.

Do you need to call witnesses or make detailed written or oral arguments? In arbitration, witnesses are allowed, and can be compelled, to attend the hearing and answer questions. Arbitration requires a much greater need to provide written or oral evidence or facts as part of the process, as well as oral or written submissions and arguments about the evidence.

Will you be self-represented? For all proceedings at the NST, participants may be self-represented and do not require legal assistance.

What happens if you cannot attend the arbitration? Tell us as soon as possible and we might be able to change the date. If you do not attend the arbitration and you do not have a good reason, the NST might make a decision without hearing from you.

Do you understand our approach to publishing decisions? Make sure you have read and understood our legal requirements to publish decisions or summaries.